by Yudarkis Veloz Sarduy (Progreso Semanal)
HAVANA TIMES — Compared to the rest of the world, getting a divorce in Cuba doesn’t seem to be a difficult task. Everyone knows that you can get a divorce for 100 pesos (4 USD) and it isn’t without reason that Cuba has one of the highest divorce rates in the world (it had the highest in the whole of Latin America in 2010).
Getting a divorce in Cuba is regulated by the Family Law and is understood to be when a marriage loses meaning for the spouses and for the children, thus it also loses meaning for society. According to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), the number of divorces has increased since 2011, although separations of couples who haven’t legally been married don’t figure among these, while marriages out of convenience, read here: for socio-economic reasons, do.
With arranged marriages so people can enjoy the benefits that come with these such as being able to obtain an electrical appliance, a vacation and even crates of beer (for the wedding party) which was a common practice in the ‘80s; or as an alternative to facilitate migrating abroad, and then, in 2011, to migrate to Havana. It’s a fact that divorces would come pouring in (after the convenience marriages), but the statistics are still shocking, even if they aren’t accurate. Compelling reasons for divorces that were in fact the end of real marriages could be listed from love fading to normal disagreements when living together.
The terrible overcrowding situation in many homes where several generations share a roof with a couple who while married, don’t have a home and are forced to go and live in an improvised room, sometimes dividing the living room with cardboard, or in the girl’s single room which the rest of the family need to go through in order to get to the bathroom. Sometimes, even in comfortable conditions, there is always a mother-in-law or father-in-law giving their constant opinion, ignoring the saying that no one should come between a man and his wife.
In addition to the above, short-lived marriages, poverty or low purchasing power or education levels, unemployment, one of the spouses having a child from a previous marriage, even divorce in the original family are all factors which present a higher risk of divorce. Other studies highlight the change in traditional roles of marriage, mainly the fact that women have greater access and opportunities to study and work, as potential causes for the increase in the country’s divorce rate.
Divorce is also more likely in middle-class families where the husband disapproves of the wife’s job or where their working days don’t coincide which reduces the time they spend together.
More rare causes are associated with the behavior of one of the spouses, from problems with hygiene, addictions, distractions, politics, sports, hobbies, even unbearable snoring, and of course infidelity. Over the centuries, infidelity has been morally censored and even punished, but it has traditionally been more tolerated and accepted with men than women, who have been stoned, had acid thrown at their faces and been severely beaten, even suffering what is then softened with the euphemistic term “passion crime”.
My generation, those born in the ‘80s, are a generation who have parents who divorced. Most people didn’t reach 30 with both of their parents still together and many went through the pain of one of them coming home late, the hushed arguments that then became loud fighting matches, picking up their things to go to and forth.
Already my age, some of them have already been married previously and have married again with children from the first marriage and new children from the second marriage. Those who live outside of Cuba are a little more careful, because getting a divorce isn’t easy there what with the separation of assets and the ex-husband’s responsibility to financially help the ex-wife. Here, whether it’s because there are very little assets or because it’s an unwritten moral law, men tend to be the ones who leave and leave the house/apartment behind for the woman and their children. Although I know the case of one girl who had to fight tooth and nail to not end up on the street.
Divorce is a sad thing, especially the process of getting a divorce, because separating isn’t really the problem, it’s the journey to making that decision, and the traumas this creates in children not so much because of the separation but because of the need to do so and the poor handling of it that normally happens. However, it’s a good thing that our country can reveal such figures as a genuine expression of the fact that people together can leave each other without any serious legal trauma other than the painful emotional experience.
All we can do is think about those who don’t get a divorce because they are afraid or because they are financially dependent, those women who say they stay “for the kids” when children are the first ones to be affected in such a tense environment, growing up in dysfunctional homes.
However, I am also concerned about the reasons why, while getting a divorce in this country is so easy, many women and men who are abused in all different ways (also because having to stay in a realtionship with someone you don’t want to be with is another form of violence) continue to be tied to each other.
The lack of affordable housing, financial and emotional dependence and fear may be some of these reasons. Fear of losing social status, of not being able to stand on their own two feet, loneliness, a spouse threatening to keep custody of the kids or even threatening death… is another of these evils that eat away at all societies, including Cuba, in silence, where freedom has ironic extremes and the collective has been advocated for much more than the individual and its specific “shortcomings”.
It seems horrible to be talking about divorce during a month that is called “of love” but dissolving ties which are more of a problem than enjoyment, which they once were, is also an act of faith for yourself and therefore an act of self-love.
It’s up to the individual to find the strength to reach the healthiest separation possible, or better yet, to think a lot when making choices and decisions when making a family for the rest of your life. It’s up to society to work on its level of support and tolerance and up to the government to promote a superstructure which also intervenes positively in this issue as well as in others.