Professionalism in Today’s Cuba

Veronica Fernandez

Glasses repair stand. Photo: Elio Delgado

Recently, after having left my job, I felt something that I usually don’t experience: the blues.

Despite the adversities here, I’m a person with strong self-esteem; someone who tries to achieve balance in life and who maintains positive thoughts. However, in this gloomy weather and heavy rain, I felt a little down.

With the problems that we have here, it’s difficult not to have at least occasional moments or stages like this.

I had started walking and I went along without even paying attention to the fact that I’d gone from one municipality to another.  As I walked, I heard someone calling.

When I turned around—though it had been a while since I’d last saw him—I realized that appearing before me was Paco, a good friend from Cojimar (my neighborhood located to the east of Havana Bay).

We immediately greeted each other warmly and chatted for only a few minutes, since he was in a hurry. Still, he had time to introduce me to Alida, who was working nearby. She was a longtime friend of his whom he’d always spoken about but whom I’d never the chance to meet personally. Paco left, but I stayed for a while, observing Alida’s skill.

She was one of the first self-employed workers in Cuba. Back in the ‘90s she got a license to repair and make glasses, since she was able to present her certificates and titles that indicated her training in that line of work.

I was amazed by her agility and efficiency. Her ability is such that I can say—unequivocally—she can perform that difficult task even with her eyes closed. She has perfect mastery over everything that relates to her trade. What’s more, she offers prompt service and with unquestionable quality.

She has been able to increase her number of customers because people find the service they expect. She demonstrates a level of proficiency that should be provided in all government shops and by other self-employed workers who today hold that license, though they’re not required to meet any professional standards in the work they do.

Alida told me that she feels upset because right now any person in Cuba can be granted a work permit without any check into their training to perform the work.

This is why the customers of other craftspeople have to come to her. They need to get their glasses fixed that were mounted incorrectly or because the lenses weren’t right. Of course, as a professional of excellence, she sees herself obliged to repair these slip-ups.

Her desire is that the people who she serves leave pleased, and it’s precisely for this reason that she’s been able to gain the confidence and esteem of everyone around her.

After being delighted watching her talented hands and realizing that there are still people who know how to respect others because they themselves strive to meet the high standards of their work, my depression and blues began to fade away. I realized that there are still people who can be trusted.

Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.