Children in Cuba: To Have or Not To Have

Verónica Vega

Photo: Byron Motley

HAVANA TIMES — An article recently published in Granma, Cuba’s major official newspaper, addresses the country’s birth rate crisis and describes the measures being implemented in this connection by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health.

These measures include providing fertile members of the population, particularly teenagers, with more detailed information about family planning methods, so as to discourage the use of abortions as a means of contraception, a practice which can result in low fertility levels in the following years.

Such information is meant to encourage the use of reliable contraceptives, preferably oral or injectable ones (which prove safer than intra-uterine devices). The article also underscores the urgent need for teenagers to assume a responsible attitude towards sex, which includes the use of condoms as a means of preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Such measures are, of course, beyond reproach. What I wonder is how teenagers, or fertile individuals in general, are expected to plan any pregnancy when their financial prospects are as bleak as they are for most people in Cuba.

What I ask myself is how such measures are going to fare in a country whose youth cannot rely on a salary that isn’t a mere formality, a home to start a family after marriage, or a space of their own to raise their children in.

The article seems to suggest that Cuba’s current demographic crisis stems from people’s reckless behavior and nothing more, as though frustration and a sense of hopelessness had no say in it, as though the vast majority of teenagers did not set their gaze on that thin, imaginary line that cuts across the sea and on the promising “beyond”.

I don’t doubt a visit the family planning clinic can restore a couple’s hopeful outlook on life, but, once they step out of this clinic, this couple is going to need much more than hope to build a future for their child.

If people begin to consider how detrimental our schools can be to our children and the dubious prospects that our educational system affords them (whether they complete a university major or not), I fear that assuming a truly responsible attitude will ultimately spell an even lower birth rate for the island.

In fact, the reason birth rates aren’t even lower is because Cubans are for the most part careless daydreamers who have an unwavering confidence in their ability to improvise. Many of the accidental pregnancies that end in the birth of a child result from this naivety.

I recall a little girl I once met who, on being asked what she wanted to study when she was older, surprised her parents by answering: “I want to study ‘foreigner’.” That is to say, she wanted to become a foreigner, for, at the young age of four, she had already perceived the difference between the standard of living of tourists and Cubans.

What a sad (and regrettably irrefutable) observation from a young girl, who begins to become aware of her environment.

It’s no secret a high percentage of married couples become separated because of conflicts arising from having to share a roof with relatives, live in overcrowded living quarters and endure the protracted illusion that their measly salaries can support a family. When poverty comes in through the door, a popular saying goes, love jumps out the window.

As often happens when I watch Cuban television, the Granma article almost managed to convince me I am living in a different country, a country with economic and social conditions that are ideal for starting a family. If only people would come to that realization.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.


6 thoughts on “Children in Cuba: To Have or Not To Have

  • July 12, 2013 at 8:54 pm
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    There are different reasons for different countries at different times. The reasons for Cuba today are very clear: the euphoria of the ’60s has given way to the harsh reality of a failed revolution, a collapsing infrastructure, a moribund economy and a geriatric ruling class. To have children you must believe in the future. That is not possible in Cuba today.

  • July 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm
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    Before the end of soviet Union, Cuba and the old Ussr Republics had much more children per Women, but there were not more opportunities or freedom, even less, people could not even emigrate. So how to explain that they made more children than now? During the 3rd Reich, the germans made more children than the Weimar Republic before and the Bundesrepublic after.
    The reasons of decreasing birth rate is much more complicated than : money, freedom, opportunities. It is clearly not only the fault of the government in place but from the people.

    In europe we are free, rich with a lot of possibilities, but no children…

  • July 12, 2013 at 10:51 am
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    My beautiful 30 year-old sister-in-law has a host of potential Cuban suitors to choose from but very few of them have jobs earning enough maintain a family. The ones that have enough income are not working as professionals but as taxi drivers, waiters, or contractors. The lawyers, engineers and doctors are the poorest of the bunch. Not one of them lives in his own house without other family members. She isn’t looking to live luxuriously but she would like to have her own home and family and not have to worry every day about how to buy food and shoes and school supplies, commonplace in Cuban life today. She is a teacher and earns about 16 cuc per month. Even if she met and married another teacher, the 32 cuc household salary means two adults living on about 1 cuc per day. She is not interested in meeting a foreigner just to live better so she is just waiting to start a family until things change in Cuba or a miracle, whichever comes first.

  • July 12, 2013 at 8:30 am
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    You missed the point. Veronica said nothing about a lack of money or children being too expensive. The reason Cubans are not having children is because of the lack of freedom and opportunity in Cuba.

  • July 12, 2013 at 8:28 am
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    Thank you for that very moving and humane essay, Veronica.

    To want to start a family is the most basic dream of any young couple. To realize there is no future for children in your country is a terrible fate. The Cuban demographic crisis will not be willed away with a speech or a few economic reforms. Only when the Cuban people actually see that they have a prosperous and safe future on the island will they begin to have children.

  • July 12, 2013 at 7:32 am
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    such kind of articles , one can read it for each country of the world! Always complaining that there is not enough money.Japan, Germany… even the richest countries of the world are complaining that children are too expensive. One should begin to think about the real reasons from low birth rate! ANd it is not the money, look at Africa….

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