Marcos is an electrician and a Jehovah’s Witness. On his own, he learned a trade that today benefits from the “energy revolution” (the national campaign to conserve energy).
The government has employed thousands of electricians to put in place the maintenance infrastructure for high-efficiency electric home appliances that have been distributed over the last few years.
Marcos is also a businessman. He’s able to provide constant and quality service six days a week. He fixed my Russian fan while he gave direction to an 18 year-old pupil who was checking the coil on a Korean fan. Marco’s porch is a veritable educational institution.
Before I paid for the repair of my fan, Marcos received a module of electronic components worth 1,300 pesos (about $65 USD). During the time I was waiting for the repair of my appliance, around 350 pesos ($17.50) must have come into the workshop – and for here that’s doing business.!
This guy really impressed me. He has mastered his trade, and his friendly and courteous manner pleases his customers.
For the Cuban State, however, a trade is an attempt at behavioral reform through forced labor. In polytechnic schools, trades such as auto mechanics and carpentry have been reserved for students who are considered “difficult”. Electronics, however, has had greater prestige, do to it being considered work that involves a higher intellectual level.
The criminalization of trades has resulted in the true culture of trades being found outside of polytechnic schools. Though deteriorated, fragmented and dispersed, people have maintained a knowledge and a basic culture of trades, just like in any modern society.
On the porch of a private home, in the backyard of a warehouse, or in the garage of a building, the entrepreneur spirit of the Cuban worker flourishes. It possesses a force and determination that can only be neutralized by the Cuban government’s tenacious anti-capitalist paranoia.
That’s why when some young person admits to me that they want to learn some trade, I advise them to go beyond the polytechnics, and that they avoid the pessimistic and aberrant atmosphere that persists in their broken-down classrooms.
“Hit the streets!” I tell them.
“Check out those who work under the table, or on top of it. What’s important is that you work with motivation and enthusiasm.”