Looking for Work in Guantanamo, Cuba

Rosa Martinez

Guantanamo street.  Photo: radioguantanamo.cu

HAVANA TIMES — As you know, I have been without work for some months now and, like any self-respecting unemployed person, am looking for a job (or pretending to do so, at least). I fear I will start liking this business of slacking off and begin living by my wits, as many Cubans – particularly young Cubans – do.

These past few days, hoping to find an honest way of making a living, I’ve walked from one end of the city to the other, trying to get in touch with a friend or an acquaintance that can recommend an institution, State or private company that could be in need of my services.

Several weeks have gone by since I started my search and I’ve found nothing in the State sector that suits me. Fewer options in the self-employed sector have turned up.

I came across an opening for snacks vendor and, though there is nothing inherently bad in that, I can’t imagine myself standing behind a counter who knows how many hours a day. I consider myself a fairly agreeable person, but I have quite a few days in which I would rather not talk to anyone, so I don’t think dealing with customers is my forte.

A friend tried to convince me to start re-selling imported clothing, under the counter, of course, like so many other businesses in Cuba.

The takings were quite good, but, my God, the prices were sky-high. I don’t know who would be able to afford such expensive clothing and footwear, not to mention the fines they would apply on me if they ever caught me red-handed (and we all know how lucky rookies tend to be).

“Selling rare and used books, I can’t think of a better job for you,” an acquaintance in my neighborhood said to me. It struck me as an excellent idea. I could start with my own books, which have been stored away for so many years that they run the risk of being eaten up by moths. What’s more, there is no shortage of people wanting to sell or throw away books they are no longer interested in or have nowhere to put.

But who would want to buy a book these days, when even many university students aren’t interested in reading and, in the best of cases, are only curious about a contemporary author? I would have loved to be surrounded by novels, stories, poetry, but that is quite definitely not a good way of bringing home the bacon these days.

I continue to look for a job calmly. My island is changing and I know that, sooner rather than later, I will find something I like and that it will be afford me the security my former job couldn’t give me. In the meantime, like many other Cubans, I continue struggling to get by.

2 thoughts on “Looking for Work in Guantanamo, Cuba

  • If you start buying and selling used books, you will be in good company, as this is just the profession of one Mario Conde, retired detective and hero of Leonardo Padura’s series)! Still, how could you bare to part with your books?!?! They are like your children…like parts of your soul…fragments of your memory! Last time I tried to cull my library (I have thousands of volumes) I could only bear to part with a box or two, some donating to our local library, others selling to a used book store. Still, it was like giving away–or selling–my children!
    How about making snacks, or meals, then selling? Come up with some unusual recipe. “Make it…and they will come!” (If it is good enough!) What the world needs is NOT yet another opportunity to buy a slice of pizza.
    Since you sometimes do not like to talk, what about fishing? (The ability to remain silent is a positive asset in that job.) The last–and, err, only–time I took the bus back to Santiago from Baracoa, the ViAzul driver stopped every few miles on the coastal road between Cajobabo and Baitiquiri to purchase fish (sometimes a whole string of them at once). By the time we reach Guantanamo, he had several large coolers filled with fish, sitting on the first rows of seats!
    Incidentally, once when I attempted to purchase a croquet from a small stand in the Vedado, the attendant said: “You don’t really want to buy these…they have been sitting around for too long and you might get sick!”

  • I remember an article (written when Rosa was working) where she told how she was trying to find something to eat for a few pesos.

    I guess it is not my business, but I wonder how Rosa manages to earn a living since she left her job last spring.

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