A Little Cuban Girl and a Chance to Choose

By Safie

I received a phone call from a friend yesterday, who I hadn’t spoken to in some time.

Her phone call brightened up my day. After the typical questions of “how are you?” and a quick catch up, she began to tell me stories about her little 6-year-old daughter. She proudly told me what happened when she went to pick up the little girl from daycare one day.

From what she told me, when she arrived the girls were playing house and pretending to cook in the “heart” of the daycare center. Meanwhile, the boys were playing at pretending to work different jobs.

My friend became uneasy when describing the scene in detail. She surprisingly tells me: “I told the teacher not to put my daughter in the kitchen cooking. But instead to put her going shopping in the store or working a checkout.”

I didn’t know what to say, because everybody raises their child as they see fit, of course. However, I gave it some further thought. “What will happen to that little girl when she grows up?” If her mother is already instilling in her the value that money to go shopping is what’s most important.

My friend is a Theater graduate, but she’s worked in a beauty salon as a stylist, for many years now. Clearly, this job gives her more money than if she practiced the profession she had studied for. I remember when she used to wear simple clothes, smiling, and making others smile when she used to be a member of the Street Theater troupe. However, her concepts and priorities have changed for some reason. I was thinking about all of this, while listening to her on the other side of the line.

I wondered whether the girl might have a vocation for medicine, law or likes painting or writing. What would her mother’s reaction be when she hears this? Will she support her?

I’m not sure, I only followed the general gist of the conversation with my friend. She ended the story by telling me what happened when they were asked to take in a toy that represents their profession or job in the future. Her little girl took a cash register she had made out of papier-mache. 

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Safie M. Gonzalez

I was born in the 80's. I love nature and animals, as well as my country. I admire the sacrifice of a people. I consider myself a simple and honest person, therefore I detest injustices. I have a taste for the arts in general, but especially for literature, photography, and cinema. I believe in the power of the word and in the ability of the human being to change the world.

Safie M. Gonzalez has 44 posts and counting. See all posts by Safie M. Gonzalez

6 thoughts on “A Little Cuban Girl and a Chance to Choose

  • Firstly, It is good to know that the university professor has a lot of self-satisfaction in his role and yes, in the societies in which I have spent the majority of my life, social status has significance. But, in Cuba as I outlined, the need to receive sufficient money to survive, is of far greater significance. As I wrote, social status is confined to within la familia.

    Of course Stephen, you are correct when saying that “if she were my daughter I would choose a higher education that translates into social status”, that reflects the Canadian society to which you belong and obviously understand.

    I know particularly well, a 29 year old female Cuban lawyer – like Fidel Castro, a graduate of Havana, she is a member of my family. But, she is recognized within our community for her exceptional beauty, not for any social status. That lack of social status, similarly applies to my wife who has previously declined invitation to teach at university, and other professional members of the family. She also, like the professor, has inner satisfaction from her role and contribution to society.

    The owner of the local paladar whose overseas relatives have ploughed substantial sums into that business which is now in Trip Advisor, has status, as does the local father of two sons who emigrated to Canada, where one of them has received Grammy awards.

    What is recognized in Cuba, is power. Those Party faithful who hold influence and control over the daily lives of others. Members of the State Police – the MININT goons to whom I have referred. The President of the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution on each block. That perhaps could be described as some form of social status.

    Pursuit of the professions has to be for inner satisfaction in Cuba, few are going to care about social status – which is after all, regarded by the Castro regime as bourgeoisie and to be deplored.

    Would I encourage my Cuban God-daughter to pursue a profession? Yes, for the internal satisfaction and the joy that comes from stretching the mind – but, not in anticipation of any social status, she lives in Cuba, not Canada.

    I too rest my case. An interesting discussion!

  • Saludos Safie,

    Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con tus comentarios. Estoy muy satisfecho con su opinión de que el dinero, por supuesto, es muy necesario para vivir, pero no es lo más importante. He visto algunas guarderías Cubanas. El personal está sumamente dedicado a sus funciones de enseñanza y dudo mucho que si se les ofreciera otro puesto renunciaran a sus responsabilidades de cuidado infantil. Además, los niños de las guarderías están muy bien cuidados y los padres, estoy seguro, están muy contentos con el servicio que la guardería Cubana brinda a todos los niños Cubanos. A diferencia de aquí en Canadá, no tenemos un sistema de guardería nacional como Cuba. Algunos padres, debido a la falta de dinero, es extraordinariamente costoso enviar a los niños Canadienses a una guardería, simplemente no envían a sus hijos a una guardería en gran desventaja para el niño. Ésta es una vía en la que el sistema socialista Cubano debe ser muy elogiado en comparación con el sistema de guardería cuasi-privado / público en Canadá.

    Sigan escribiendo interesantes sobre cómo Cuba y los ciudadanos Cubanos afrontan su vida cotidiana.

  • Carlyle writes: “But he has little understanding of the daily needs of Cubans.” Blatantly Wrong in all respects!!!

    Carlyle, I can also give you an example of a Cuban chemical engineer who teaches at the university in Santiago de Cuba who as a Professor teaches various courses in the Chemical Engineering program.

    He is very proud of his profession and his professorial duties and status as a poorly paid university Professor. He once shared with me, with no names attached, a list of extremely poor marks on test he had given to his first year students. All students failed the test. He asked me for my opinion as to what he should do? He was perplexed and dejected. I asked him why continue teaching when it is obvious the students don’t seem to care and frustration and perhaps hopelessness seems to dog your demeanor. The pay is poor, the potential retirement remuneration, even worse, why continue teaching?

    He was very emphatic in telling me he loved his profession, he loved being a university Professor and he loved his position in general. He said his parents and family are extremely proud of his accomplishments, he feels he is making a positive contribution to his community and society in general yet he knows the monetary reward is piss poor! Reading between the lines he is obviously stating his social status at the university, in his family, in his community and within the Cuban society all these intangibles are something this chemical engineering professor is very proud of. There is no monetary value that can be attributed to what he said and feels.

    Now, you can extrapolate this sentiment to many more Cuban professionals be they university professors, teachers – elementary/secondary, dentists, lawyers, and so on. Of course, you do not have to tell me their salaries are a pittance and they are very concerned about feeding their families and their daily needs are not being met, yet given a choice to obtain a free education a future with social status and no education with no social status and no money in both situations, the choice is obvious.

    Now, to that six year old Cuban girl the article was all about.

    Will her mother simply say don’t bother getting an education (even though it is free) and when it is convenient drop out and become a lowly cashier in a store. Result: poor pay, no social status.

    Or, encourage the little girl to continue her free education as far as she can go hopefully entering into a profession of her choosing and that she enjoys.
    Result: poor pay, significant social status.

    So, what would any intelligent person choose in this Cuban social status scenario?

    Don’t know about you, Carlyle, but I would bet most readers would opt for the latter rather than the poor pay, no social status choice.

    I know if she was my daughter, I would choose a higher education that translates into social status given the alternative. I know she will be poorly paid like all other Cubans but at least she has attained her goals and like the chemical Professor she will be proud of intangibles such as family, neighbor and societal respect things money can’t buy.

    She is 6 years old. In another 12 years or so when she has to make a decision about her career, if she chooses that route, do you know what the salaries will be for Cuban professions? I certainly don’t.

    What I do know is that if she chooses to be a cashier (no social status relatively speaking) she will always be paid poorly whether in Cuba or if she decides to emigrate to Canada.

    I rest my case.

  • Estimado Stephen, su comentario le aporta, sin duda, otro punto de vista al artículo. Estoy muy de acuerdo en que a los pequeños se les enseñe el valor del dinero, pues, para quien lo gana con mucho sacrificio, incluso, para quien no, es importante saber, que tenerlo, no es sinónimo de irlo despilfarrando, y, sobre todo, que, el tenerlo, no es lo má importante. Es obvio que el dinero es necesario, muy necesario para vivir, pero no es lo más importante, porque de la manera en que le enseñemos a los infantes este concepto, ellos trabajarán en base a lograrlo. Creo que todos tenemos el derecho de decidir, en su momento, qué carrera estudiar y ejercer.
    Es bueno que en las guarderías los niños jueguen a los roles de género, porque desde ahí se les enseña que tanto las hembras como los varones, tienen derecho de saber cocinar, pero también a ejercer cualquier profesión que les guste, y no esteriotiparlas por su género.

  • “No doubt, elementary schools in Cuba, like Canadian schools, do not teach money management at an early age. It needs to be taught somewhere.”

    “I hope……..that her parents encourage her to consider a career beyond a cash register and something more in tune to what Cuba desperately needs in a wide range of lucrative occupations, if not in monetary worth, certainly professions with much more social status and lifelong career fulfillment.”

    Stephen is undoubtedly well meaning in his comparisons between Canada and Cuba. But he has little understanding of the daily needs of Cubans. Cubans unless supported by remittances, have to scrape a living in order to exist. Social status is of little if any significance – what matters is finding enough money to eat, cloth the family and survive.

    That is why those with the “social status” of say a medical doctor, prefer to become hotel waiters serving tourists, because of tips. Tips totaling an average of $2 per day, exceeding the earnings of a hospital doctor.

    Take the example of ‘Jose’ not his real name, but I know him well. He is self-taught in English, then he studied and became fluent in German and French, then Japanese – he even did the translations for a Japanese company making a film in Cuba and is listed in the credits. He has given English lectures to Cuban university medical students – hence my knowledge of them also having compulsory Marx/Lenin instruction.

    ‘Jose’ entered Law at the University of Havana, but dropped out when he found that Cuban Law has no application internationally. He can discuss the arts and the limited amount of literature that Cuba permits – Marquez and others, but not Pasternak who is banned.

    Ten years ago, he ceased his academic activities to sell videos – it enabled him to earn more and support his widowed mother. Eventually, after years of endeavor – because he is not a Party member, he obtained a position as a tourist guide and had the highest earnings of his lifetime. Alas, in October 1919 with the catastrophic drop in tourism, he was one of the 300 guides who were made redundant – and told to pursue work in the “private sector” ie: pay 200 pesos for a licence to pedal a bici-taxi, push a wheelbarrow or give haircuts.

    Now he has been trying to obtain work at Mariela. If that fails, this multi-lingual talented intellectual man, will put a panier on his bicycle, go to the Empresa, buy a couple of dozen 200 gm loaves for five pesos each and cycle around town selling them for 6 pesos. If he does that twice per day, he will earn more that a school teacher with a Master’s degree. Such is
    social staus” in the reality of Cuba.

    The reality of Cuba is a world away from that of Canada. I know many Cubans with wonderful talents and abilities. Social status is confined to la familia. My medical sister-in-law, having done a three year contract in Venezuela, improved her home to qualify as a casa-particular. My wife although highly academically qualified and holding a significant role in education, is paid what for a Canadian is a pittance – but for a Cuban is well above average earnings, she has no concern for “social status”.

    That Stephen is why I anguish about the future for my Cuban God-daughter. I look at this intelligent child now 9 years of age, and wonder what the future can hold for her under the hideous Castro regime. I compare her with the children that I know in Canada and the UK who have all the opportunities in the world, who can progress and even obtain the social status and careers of which you speak.

  • Personally, I do not see a problem with either playing positions at the day care center for the little six year old girl either in the kitchen cooking, or shopping, or working a toy cash register. In fact, the more exposure children receive in a multitude of future employment positions the more positive the eventual outcome will be for them.

    The child is six years old. At that age a child’s imagination runs wild. Rarely, does the child play at a fantasy profession in day care center and actually becomes an adult worker in that same profession. Music and sports though taught to the child and reinforced daily by parents, teachers, and tutors can certainly translate into having a positive impact on a child’s eventual career development and eventual career choice.

    Certainly here in Canada, how many parents (mothers and fathers) bring their child(ren), boys and girls, some even younger than six years old, to a hockey arena to begin skating, develop hockey skills, and hopefully with enough parental encouragement and sometimes parental prodding produce adult hockey players. It happens on a regular basis. Many Cuban baseball stars and other athletes began with an athletic interest at a very young age and proliferated. If they do not make it into professional sport, they certainly become contributing members of their communities. To determine outstanding athletic ability in one sport practicing a variety of sports cements the final choice.

    Similarly with music. Many music prodigies began their interest and enjoyment of playing a musical instrument at a very early age by having a parent encourage and teach the child how to play and with genuine interest and much practice many child musicians eventually went on to become very, very, proficient. Cuban musicians, dancers, come to mind.

    “What will happen to that little girl when she grows up?” If her mother is already instilling in her the value that money to go shopping is what’s most important.” I view this situation differently than the way it is expressed.

    I think the mother is doing her daughter a positive thing in encouraging her daughter to first, value money, and secondly teach her how to spend the money wisely in a very frugal way because in Cuba money is so scarce children from the get go need to recognize that such limited monetary resource, cash in hand, needs to be garnered with the outmost care and prudence.

    Secondly, it is never to early to teach children how to purchase fictitious items, allocate money, make wise choices in spending and ensure the right amount of change comes back to the child after making a fictitious purchase. From that experience, the child can go with a parent to a store or fruit market and the parent can reinforce what was taught in the fictitious day care purchases with an actual purchase with real money.

    I know here in Canada parents often complain to their local school boards that children are extremely ignorant about how to handle and efficiently use money so that when they do obtain some they frivolously spend it away never having enough to purchase necessities. Parents want their children to be more money wise but the school curriculum is so overwhelmed that there is no time to be spent teaching one of the most important life lessons. It has to be done at home, even at day care at a very early age and continuously reinforced. No doubt, elementary schools in Cuba, like Canadian schools, do not teach money management at an early age. It needs to be taught somewhere.

    I am sure the six year old girl enjoyed playing with a toy cash register at the day care center. I hope for her sake progressing into the future that her parents encourage her to consider a career beyond a cash register and something more in tune to what Cuba desperately needs in a wide range of lucrative occupations, if not in monetary worth, certainly professions with much social status and lifelong career fulfillment.

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