Doing What One Wants in Cuba

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez 

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 1 — People in Cuba prefer to lead their lives their own way. It’s a need that arises when one realizes that neither the market nor the state will provide a dignified and accommodating existence. People become unilateral. They do what they please.

“Whenever it’s possible!” add the pessimistic and the realist, and not without reason.

That’s to say that people do what they want within their possibilities, within love and hate.

Many things are done this way because it’s an effective way of making sense of everyday life. In this way existence is politicized. We become protagonists in the decisions that are made around us.

Low paid wage labor means little today, nor does the demagogic nationalism that for a long time ordered the lives of people and their life endeavors. These ideologies have only served to kill the collectivist spirit that pervaded among the Cuban people with the triumph of the revolution of 1959.

To kill individual freedom has created predispositions and impossibilities for the enjoyment of the common good. For many people in Cuba, collectivism symbolizes individual and family slavery. Things couldn’t have ended up worse.

Many people do what they want, but not to help those around them – rather, it’s to compete with them. Because of this, “doing what you want” loses much of its emancipatory character.

However not everything is lost. I don’t know if it’s due to the native vocation of fellowship or is owed to the resistance to a past that is now dying, but there still exists mutual assistance in Cuban neighborhoods.

In the present is perceived a certain ambivalence seen in the moods with which people carry out their individual and family projects.

On the one hand, the liberalization of non-state work has induced a certain corporate harmony between those who work in the informal sector.

But at the same time one can appreciate uncertainty towards the medium term future. It is a future that is designed without the direct participation of these same workers and most of the Cuban people.

Doing what you want can be a legitimate form of subversion, provided that relies on inclusive and democratic ethics.

It is a subversion that germinates in day-to-day life, in the joy of breaking outdated rules, evading taxes, “re-appropriating” what belongs to the state and saturating oneself in different forms of entertainment.