Simple Matters, Senseless Obstacles

Veronica Fernandez

Cuban money exchange office. Photo:

My cousin Gustavo was sent from Cuba to the United States when he was very young. He’s the son of one of my father’s brothers, an uncle who I always got along with in my childhood and for whom I felt much affection.

Gustavo hardly remembered me because he had left when he was so young. A few years ago he decided to visit his native land and that was in fact when we met again as adults.

In that short interval of his stay in Cuba, we were able to narrow ours ties, which have remained up through today since we’ve been able to maintain communication like never before.

There’s a saying that goes, “The family is the family,” but this precept doesn’t always ring true. Sometimes there are family members who live close to us but they manage to be the farthest away at the same time. On the other hand there are people like Gustavo who, despite being far away, are always present.

A few days ago my cousin Gustavo sent me some money, and of course I became very happy. It seemed like it had fallen from the sky, because with all the needs we face, any help that comes to us is like manna from heaven.

As this money came in US dollars, I wanted to change a portion of it for Cuban CUCs (freely convertible Cuban pesos) and leave the other part as he had sent it.

I headed off immediately to the closest money exchange center (a Casa de Cambio, or CADECA), and after waiting there for almost an hour in line they told me that they couldn’t give me a portion of the bill back in dollars. Inquiring further I asked if I could go to the bank for that same thing but the answer was also negative.

As is logical, by then I was in a bad mood after having wasted my time and finding myself unable to resolve such a simple and easy matter.

A thousand questions immediately came to mind; there are so many of these unnecessary obstacles in my country.

Why not solve peoples’ problems? Why do they have to make people feel needlessly upset?

I thought back to the closing of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party (last April), during President Raul Castro’s speech, where he succeeded in showing us the damage that our own internal blockade is causing us because we’re not able to find solutions to problems that hamper our development.

This simple situation I just faced is one of the many things here that don’t make any sense or logic but that we Cubans constantly encounter.