How I Became an Accomplice

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago I traveled to San Jose de las Lajas, like I do almost every week.

For this trip, I always stash away 10 pesos for the taxi ride – an investment that prevents me from getting dehydrated on the highway waiting for a public bus.

This last time, though, something unexpected happened at the taxi stop.

“Sonny, the fare’s gone up to 15 pesos,” shouted the collector.

“What do you mean 15 pesos! Since when? All I have is 10 pesos. So now, how am I supposed to get San Jose?” I babbled aloud in my surprise and confusion.

Possessed by a mixture of indignation and despair, I was about to give up on my trip when suddenly one of the drivers who was about to leave made me a compassionate offer.

“Listen brother, I’ll take you for ten pesos, but don’t say anything to the other passengers – they’ll get all pissed off with things like that.”

“Things like that” is the expression you’ll hear when what they really mean is a scam.

But the temptation was too great, so great that I ended up being an accomplice to that scam through my deferring silence. I was an accomplice to what only seconds earlier had angered me. In this way, “things like that” had saved me – and on top of it all, I had to thank the driver for his kindness.

Once I got back home, I was able to find out why the fare had increased.

A neighbor explained to me: “Well, the collector at the San Jose taxi stop said all this is because — by licensing regulations — the drivers can now only carry three people in the back seat. You understand? Compadre, they reduced their earnings by ten pesos! – which had to be made up somehow.”

So this means — I thought once I got home — that these San Jose taxi drivers increased the fares for the remaining passengers to compensate for their reduced capacity. Only now they’re earning a lot more money while reducing the overhead on the taxi.

Once again, thanks to a defense mechanism, the weakest people have ended up paying for the arbitrary increase. The ones who pay are always the underdogs – the passengers in this case.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

One thought on “How I Became an Accomplice

  • hmmmm…maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how complying with licensing regulations and taking fewer passengers at a higher rate equates to “arbitrary” price increases or “a scam”. Also I don’t understand why the author figures this new situation results in reduced overhead on the taxi. Sounds like the author is just ticked off that the new capitalist forms of enterprise are not as wallet-friendly as he had hoped. Seems like I’ve been hearing a lot of this already, and I suppose we’ll be hearing more of it as the economic reforms become reality rather than vague ideas.

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