Some Things About Cuban Mothers

Rosa Martinez

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES – In Cuba, women are normally courageous. And, it’s not a matter of them being more courageous than other women in the world or anything like that; but the thing is, here they have no other choice but to be brave, because if they aren’t, they won’t be able to give their children a decent life.

This is the story of a young woman from Guantanamo (which could be the story of many women in Cuba), who doesn’t ever throw the towel in, who isn’t scared off by anything, who dries her tears, holds her head up high and says: carry on.

She is called Isabel, but she might as well be called Maria, Katia, Nicole or any other Russian, English or French-derived name, depending on her family and their preference.

Well, Isabel is your regular professional, who as well as punching in eight hours every day for a miserly monthly wage of 560 pesos, also sells “things” at her company, in the neighborhood, even at other places where she has friends, so she can make it to the end of the month. With the current state of things here in Cuba, we all know full well that 22 USD per month isn’t enough for anyone to get by, it seems that even 100 USD isn’t enough.

She has a husband, who is very hard-working too. But unlike her, he doesn’t manage to “invent” much to boost the household income. Carlos is a teacher and he doesn’t know how to do anything but teach classes; whenever his job as a teacher allows him to, he works as a builder’s assistant with a friend, but it’s only a couple of times a month and doesn’t really bring in a lot.

While Carlos says that they have to adapt, Isabel finds a way to get a little extra so they don’t have to give up the basics. And when I say basics, I’m talking about the absolute basics, not clothes and shoes (which are also basic), I’m talking about meals, personal hygiene items, school snacks, the essentials you need to live.

When he says that the shoes the neighbor is selling are too expensive for their older son, that poor people can’t buy these things, that there are more pressing needs, she doubles down and organizes cooperatives amongst her work colleagues or people in the neighborhood, in order to make her older son’s dream come true, who will soon go to university and he can’t be any less than anyone else. The young lad has studied so hard to be at the top of his preuniversity class, for his mum not to be able to buy him the right pair of shoes, she says, and she manages to get them.

Nothing is impossible for mothers, or almost nothing, which isn’t the same, but it sounds the same.

That’s why, today, when it’s twice as hard to find things: protein, ham, hot dogs, with so many food shortages, she reinvents recipes with some vegetables to make a soup with rice more appealing or a yellow rice. She works magic with okra, beans, kale, tomatoes (which are also expensive, for the record).

When the baby of the household’s birthday comes around, and the family budget shouts out that a party won’t be possible, while practical-headed friends advise her to buy the child what it really needs: a pair of pants, or some sandals because summer is around the corner, the mother doesn’t hear the cries of the family’s or national economy, much less anyone’s advice. She does what she has to do and first scrape some money together and then gets friends from the neighborhood together to sing happy birthday, to share cake and play with her son at her prince’s dream birthday party.

While the father doesn’t have time to line up in the long line for bread, in the middle of a crisis that has even hit Cuban bakeries, mom finds a way to have time to work both on the street and at home, to take care of the children, line up in the long line and buy bread, chicken, mincemeat, and even to run her fingers through her young child’s curls, so that they don’t forget that as well as work and sacrifice, she is love.

That’s why today, when an imminent and seemingly inevitable crisis looms over every Cuban’s life, I can’t help but think about my daughters and all the other Cuban children and young people who will have to pay for the poor administration of the national economy and the Trump administration’s dreadful actions, which is trying to stifle us once and for all.

But in addition to these children, I also think about the mothers who, like Isabel, like myself, boldly stand in the face of each and every challenge our Cuba throws our way today, challenges that are really quite frightening in reality, which get everybody’s spirits down, which take away your desire to live at times, because we don’t believe another Special Period is fair for anybody, much less ourselves.

These mothers will continue to suffer every day in order to put some food on the table for each of their loved ones, they will find a way to give their small ones the best summer ever, to buy a backpack, shoes, socks… for the new school year. And they will suffer, they will suffer a lot in every battle, but they will never ever give up. Isabel won’t, and neither will I…

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

13 thoughts on “Some Things About Cuban Mothers

  • July 5, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    It is heartbreaking to read of the struggles Cuban mothers go through
    I have vacationed many times in Cuba , wonderful friendly people
    It is hard to believe in this day and age , people , do not have a decent live night
    To work so hard and be paid a pittance, INCREDIBLE
    Trump makes matters worse , like to see Melania struggle like the wonderful Cuban mother’s ,
    He lives his very rich life , without a thought , to 3 world country , struggling every day to survive and keep their children fed and clothed

  • July 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Lady Godiva, children at your feet, I wonder how you manage, to make ends meet.- Lyrics by The Beatles of England.- Inglaterra.

  • June 30, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Vivan las Cubanas heroicas de todos los tiempos. The government never has suffered likes the mothers that have to invent every day to feed their kids.

  • June 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

    You are so right about that!!

  • June 27, 2019 at 8:52 am

    I agree. Everyone that hates Trump blames him. Well what about all the other decades! I feel bad for the Cuban people. While there a month ago I spoke to a hairdresser that worked in a government owned shop. He said for a service of an equivalent US $1.00 the Cuban government takes 90c leaving him with 10c. That when I understood more of why Trump said we will not contribute to the regime. Its not us that’s bringing this to the Cuban people it’s their Communist government. I feel so bad for the Cuban people I hope and pray someday God will take over with a solution ?.

  • June 26, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    I’m an American citizen , Mexican , and living with a wonderful Cuban man , have two beautiful daughters with him and both striving to give family a better life , let’s not forget that the United States has been made from all different nationalities, Amen !

  • June 26, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Whereas I understand the views expressed by Mary, Muriel, Harry, Claire and lleana and their criticism of Donald Trump – and his actions which affect my family, so it is personal, let us not be blind to the true cause of the misery being inflicted upon Cubans and in particular their children.
    Muriel spoke of the wish for her country the US, to lend a helping hand. Barack Obama tried to open the door to doing so on March 21, 2016, only to have his overtures rejected out of hand only eight days later by the Castro regime.
    Rosa always relates the reality of Cuba from a caring, loving mother’s perspective – a Profesora who cares about all her fellow Cubans. In this article in particular Rosa touches upon how the regime fails to address even the basic needs of life for Cubans. It is all so familiar, the cost relative to income of food -even tomatoes- let alone shoes and clothing. How Cuban parents have to scratch to find ways of obtaining the bare necessities of life. This is a consequence of the Castro regime pursuing its communist policies, not those of Donald Trump, for such conditions have existed since 1989/90, long before he entered the White House, Trump has only exacerbated an existing condition.
    Rosa speaks for thousands of Cuban mothers – I have a very deep admiration for them having observed their struggles. But I also think of my own Cuban family and of my eight year old God-daughter and her two younger sisters. When will they be able to enjoy the freedoms that we in the capitalist societies accept as normality? In five years? -maybe ten years? Ever?
    So much depends upon removing the communist policy shackles and permitting Cubans to use their God-given talents as individuals rather than as part of that “mass” of which the Castros and Che Guevara were so enamored.
    Liberty calls for Rosa, her family and the people of Cuba, may we all pray that they achieve it.
    Viva Cuba libre!

  • June 26, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Cuban women hold up more than half the sky . . . .

  • June 26, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Lovely article and lovely comments. Thanks Havanatimes for working in bringing Cuban and American women and mothers together.
    It’s a wonderful way to fight the hateful embargo.

  • June 26, 2019 at 10:25 am

    I too am disgusted at Trump…I’m no stranger to Cuba having been there many times..its been like my second home…I’m so sorry for what is happening ,as if you haven’t already been through enough.

  • June 25, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and all the wonderful people of Cuba. Been there three times and their stocism,warm and loving nature is an inspiration to the world. Proud people with a proud history. May you see better time soon and be always free from outside interference.

  • June 25, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    From an American Mom to my Cuban sisters: I feel your pain. I have never suffered like you are, but I know what it’s like to sacrifice for my children. There is no greater love than what a mother feels for her children and it crosses all boundaries, all cultures.

    I pray that my country will extend a helping hand to you instead of bullying you.

    Of course, the current economic situation in Cuba is very complex and has many causes. I will say, though, that the actions taken by President Trump are despicable. With such actions as the embargo, those that are furthest down the line seem to suffer the most. What kind of filthy rich person bullies poor people… children? We see it in Cuba and at the US/Mexican border… we are not naive, yet we are powerless to stop this disgusting, heartless tyrant and his cronies. May he drive straight to hell in his golf cart!

  • June 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I have been to havana and it is not a city to go to shop as there are no shop’s. I found the people of cuba a proud race. What they are taking from america with sanctions. The trumpettes should hang their head in shame. Viva Castro’s

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