Yenisel Rodriguez

Life in a Cuban province. Photo: Caridad

In the town of Sancti Spiritus there exist many brickyards.  These are factories where clay bricks are made.  My sixteen-year-old cousin Yanner works in one of them.  His mother says that if he doesn’t want to study, then he has to work.

A few weeks ago I visited him.  When he finished up his shift at work, he took me on a tour around the city.  He wanted to show me his world, and we spent a lot of time together.

From my cousin I learned that for younger residents of the city, living means enjoyment, and enjoyment means having sex and going out dancing. Essentially, it’s not something that differentiates them from many of Havana’s youth.

The contrast lies in the fact that life in Sancti Spiritus is less open than in other municipalities, provinces and countries.  Their enjoyment is more of a homogenizer.  Sex winds up in getting someone pregnant and dance ends in a drunken stupor.  For me, such day-to-day routine is suffocating.

What’s certain is that my cousin works in a brickyard without liking what he does, without enjoying his six working hours.

He only dreams of the Central Disco.  He hangs out here and there, takes a few swigs and gives one or two pelvic thrusts to maintain his Don Juan reputation, and then —on the way back home— he’s always able to give some young woman a kiss.

“I never go home empty-handed,” he explained to me.

On my next to the last night in Sancti Spiritus, I asked him what farewell plans he had for me.

He responded, “After I finish at the brickyard, we’re going to go have a good time over by the bridge with no rails.”

Dejected, I made myself comfortable on my side of the bed and wondered why after one whole week in Sancti Spiritus I still hadn’t been able to discover what enjoyment consists of for my cousin.  Neither the pain in my feet nor my stomach churning around from so much beer seemed to be a part of this.  Maybe it was a sense of aversion? I don’t know.

But not wanting to give up in defeat, I asked him something else: “Do you think I can go to the brickyard tomorrow to see how the bricks are made?”

He merely shrugged his shoulders and responded to me with assurance: “If you want to?!”

Soon after, and before falling asleep, I hear his voice:  “Cousin…, you don’t go empty-handed in Havana either.”


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 “Living in Sancti Spiritus

  • Hmmm! Sounds like life in a small town or city up here…life as marking time…a descent into mindless hedonism. How has Yenisel Rodriguez managed to climb out of this, whereas his cousin seems to be stuck on one of the lower rings of hell? Now that is the mystery of life!

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