The Dilemma Facing Many of Cuba’s Elderly

By Safie M. Gonzalez

These lines start forming in the early morning hours.

HAVANA TIMES – When it comes to lines, I think Cuba takes first place, and not just because they have become even longer now and you have to wait longer as a result of the pandemic. But it’s also true that both Cubans yesterday and today, with or without a pandemic, are a sociable, curious and supportive people. In five hours, you hear and see many stories unfold.

Not too far away from me, there was an almost 80-year-old woman. She had been there since 4 AM, just like me and the other 200-or-so people in the line, to get a ticket and wait her turn to buy at the store.

(I must clarify that this happened just before the new procedure of handing out tickets for the next day came into practice)

The woman was taking great care to hide herself from the police every time they passed by, as it’s a well-known fact that the elderly are the most vulnerable right now. So, she was afraid of being discovered and sent back home before she had a chance to buy the things she desperately needed.

I wondered, why does this woman need to be here? Isn’t there anyone else in her family who could come instead? Then, as if the woman had heard my thoughts, and maybe because somebody else with the same concern had asked, the woman explained that she lives alone with her daughter and grandson, but that her daughter is in the hospital. She had suffered a stroke a few days ago and her grandson was taking care of her at the hospital. “If I’m not here, in this line, who would buy food for the house?”

At 10 AM, without a chair, or a rock at least to sit on, she fanned herself and would lower her mask from time to time to drink a little bit of water. “On top of that, I can’t buy another packet of chicken, as they are only selling one per person.”

It’s easy to say “Stay at home”, but how do you ask this poor old woman well over 70 years to not wake up at the crack of dawn, and walk nearly 4 kms to the store? Who can demand that she doesn’t stand in such a long line under the sun, to buy chicken for her daughter in the hospital?

What could be done in these kinds of situations?

In the end, and with the help of some of us in line, the woman was able to sit on the grass, on a plastic bag and wait for her ticket number to be called out.

7 thoughts on “The Dilemma Facing Many of Cuba’s Elderly

  • The Cuban people are very creative and hearty. With very little support from the US and Canada, they could thrive. The inequity of wealth in the world is astounding. Cuba could survive quite well on what falls out of most north American’s pockets. But to sanction a small country like Cuba, cutting them off from supports, is a human caused catastrophe. If America would purchase produced goods, Cuba would thrive. Rum, cigars, sugar, necessities in American life, would go a long way to helping the old lady in the line-up. I see old ladies in lineup here, in Canada. But, shame on America for harbouring such petty grievances. Castro is not to be blamed for this mess. He brought pride, education and health care. In many ways, Cuba has surpassed the US. Universal health care, education and a sincere desire to help their own. Something America can’t get their head around.

    Carlyle. You speak much and say little. What is state capitalism?Or provided services that the employer retains 75% of the earnings??? I pay taxes of 35% of my paycheck. I then pay 15% on all purchases of goods. These taxes (employer retained earnings) pay for education and health care, mostly. Roads and other necessary services are paid through taxation. Cuba has a controlled economy. Housing is also controlled, but available at a cost relative to income. Actually, the Cuban economy has been controlled by an overlord force for a very long time, historically. Perhaps you dont consider the American control over Cuba as a controlled economy. What would you call it? I repeat, if America would treat Cuba with a tinge of respect, (and they should) Cuba would thrive.

  • You are spot on Dan, it is the entire system in Cuba, that is rotten.

    The people of Cuba have had no choice, the Castro regime has imposed a one-party political system using the necessary repression to maintain it. Although you endeavor to belittle those with greater experience and knowledge of Cuba than yourself, you cannot deny the reality that Cuba is a dictatorship – which is probably the reason that you spend little if indeed any time there.

    No doubt in response you will speak of medical services and education. In Cuba, the first is a prime example of State capitalism, where the employer provides services to others and retains over 75% of the earnings, and the second of which has the declared purpose of indoctrination. (For confirmation study the Constitution of Cuba)

    Regardng Spanish, perhaps you would care to list the errors in ‘Cuba Levantando El Velo’ – either in linguistics or fact ?

    I note without surprise, your lack of compassion for “an old lady standing in line”.

  • Wow. An old lady standing in line in a small 3rd World country that has been under attack from a nearby Superpower for 60 years is all it takes for the condemnation of an entire system. And this by whom ? Someone who has been to Cuba twice, and another who “actually went beyond the tourist spots” with his spotty Spanish to pen a nugatory book published by a vanity publishing company. Sheltered lives of the privileged. Look at your own countries.

  • You broke my heart….

  • Definitely the elderly are left to survive on their own there in Cuba. Where are the Social Workers that could assist them? Elder abuse is what it is known as here in the USA. The regime there could care less it seems. I have visited Cuba twice and been at the store when an elderly woman came to get a portion of extra gruel that is allowed to the elderly as subsistence. That is nothing to keep them alive or having some quality of life. We did visit a senior center, but they are few in between. Never saw one in smaller towns. The elderly were left to sit and be out of sight it seemed. Human rights are denied to the elderly there as it is to the rest of the population.

  • If only your concerns Gloria for the elderly of Cuba were shared by the Castro regime. Imagine being that age with a pension of 200 pesos a month (US $8) and sharing your home of 400 sq. ft. with three younger generations, for that is commonplace in Cuba.

    “For the people of Cuba there remains only that faint hope which they have tenaciously clung onto for so many long years. Hope for the younger generations that they may yet know freedom and opportunity to live in their beautiful country free of repression, with freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom to vote for political parties of choice. Cubans, deserve no less, for only then will they become members of an open society in a free world that waits to welcome them with open arms. Liberty and that poignant cry for freedom beckon, and humanity demands.”

    Cuba Lifting the Veil

  • I wish I could go do her errands for her!

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