Vacations for Some, Difficulties for Others

Veronica Fernandez

Havana bus stop. Photo: Caridad

On Monday April 12, when I left home, all around me I felt a process of transformation in Cuban society and I wondered: What could be happening?

On the way to the bus stop I ran into more and more people of all ages.  After two hours of waiting, the No.58 arrived which travels from the east of the capital to downtown Havana.  By sheer luck I was able to get on, though this was after a footrace with other people to catch this bus that had come to a halt two blocks short of the stop.

When this bus arrived at its final stop, located in the capital’s central municipality of Revolution Square, I again noticed masses of people in the street.  I thought, “It can’t only be the school vacation for elementary schools that has crammed the streets, buses and every other place. Yet there was no escaping the thousands of people I found in my path.

When I got to my job, I could finally understand what was going on. It turned out that the week off —which for years has been known for being a vacation break each six weeks for elementary school students— has now been expanded to include all educational levels.  This means that in addition to those thousands of school children, there are now all of the secondary school pupils, pre-university students and college undergrads on break too.  I know I’m not at any commanding level to call into question the wisdom of that decision, but I can in fact say that it leaves a whole lot to be desired.

For a moment I thought that all these people in the streets had no place to take refuge or that they didn’t have homes.  In fact, I thought a lot of things… The decision might be great in terms of saving the country’s resources, but it could end up being catastrophic if we keep in mind that all those students are just kids who are out from under the eyes of their parents, grandparents and siblings.  And they were on their way to who knows where.  This is because the already-scorching heat of Cuba prompts the majority to head for the beach; and since Cuba is surrounded by the sea, they spread out in all directions.

This mechanism is excellent for students, so it’s necessary to toast to this stage of life, enjoyment, health and the well-being of our future generations.  But what is far from excellent is the worsening of the transportation system for those of us who have to continue working to keep the economy going.

The intense heat of the months of July and August are unbearable.  This is traditionally when all of the schools let out for summer vacation.  Nonetheless, it’s also when the rest of us have to keep going to work; it’s when we reinforce ourselves with extraordinary willpower to continue pushing ahead.

That said, now we have to add this vacation period to our already heavy load.  Who’s thinking about the population that contributes to the development of the economy, sports, science and the country’s culture?  Who’s thinking about the overwhelming majority of us workers who don’t have our own transportation to get to work?

We need to think of measures for the collective improvement of society, never for the benefit of some at the expense of others.  We sometimes think we’re saving with certain specific measures, while on the other hand we’re wasting resources that will cost even more to recover.

Phrases like, “You have to be valiant to take the bus during school vacation,” and so many others like that, also leave a great deal to be desired.

I think there are measures that need to be adopted, but it has to be kept in mind that when a decision is made at the highest level, they should always consider the benefits to the majority and not just to certain groups of the population.

Sometimes we make a mistake and find it difficult to recognize it.  We think we’re doing the best thing and we applaud it.  But how long are these things going to continue happening?  We should continue developing ourselves, evolving and remembering —like what they taught me from the Marxist classics— that in unity there is strength.