Cuba Threatened by Lack of Population Replacement

By Pilar Montes

Cuban university students. Will they choose to have kids in Cuba? Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Population aging is characteristic of so-called developed countries owing to the socio-economic conditions typical of these countries. However, Cuba, which isn’t remotely close to being a developed nation, also faces this phenomenon.

We are seeing a demographic trend that advances somewhat erratically, adults over 60 today constitute one fifth of the population (officially estimated at 11.2 million).

The country, obliged to implement a sustainable economic development model in the presence of growing interest in the country from foreign investors, must urgently adopt policies that encourage population growth and acknowledge the impact that the emigration of young people has had in this connection.

All aspects of the problem are being analyzed and it was recently a thesis subject in the faculty of psychology. A case in point is Selene Nieto Meriño’s graduation project, based on research on the effects of intimacy on the human couple.

Interviewed about this paper that earned her the highest grade in her graduation class and a recommendation for publication by the panel of professors, Selena points out that “An adequate population replacement process must confront, among other challenges, the current tendencies that prevail among marriages, and academic tools are being developed in Cuba to ensure longer-lasting families.”

“The duration of heterosexual relations (the ones that produce children and contribute to population replacement) is estimated at around a mere 5 years. Cuba is among the first four countries with the highest divorce rates in the world.”

The Elderly are a growing part of the Cuban population.  Photo: Juan Suarez
The Elderly are a growing part of the Cuban population. Photo: Juan Suarez

Selene explained that “the information, education and concerns surrounding this issue continue to be rewarding, as Cuban society promotes the wellbeing and happiness of the family.”

“Intimacy is the state in which people profess positive feelings, share ideas, attitudes and behaviors freely, in an atmosphere of reciprocal acceptance, commitment, tenderness and trust,” the psychologist explains.

Sitting at the Cadenas square in the University of Havana campus, Selene added that “in contrast to passion, intimacy is an intellectual process of construction and, consequently, a pattern of behavior. In this sense, it constitutes a valuable tool for promoting longer relationships, whether they figure in the Civil Registry or a religious ceremony or not.”

At the theoretical level, she underscored that “emotional intimacy works at five levels, including the spiritual and dream realms, that is, the domain referring to a couple’s shared projects.”

“Intimacy is based on ten key elements,” Selene adds. “Mutual trust within the couple, that is to say, the trust each places on the other, and the ability to listen and bear the other’s points of view in mind, are among the most important.”

The other elements are honesty, respect, commitment, security, generosity, loyalty, reciprocity, reliance, understanding and acceptance, Selene explained.
“Intimate relations are not free from contradictions or even crises,” the young psychologist stresses, “but, if we hope to make marriages last longer, we must assess citizens’ global appreciation of the role of intimacy in these.”

“The study outlined in my theses,” she said, “reveal results that establish a direct link between emotional intimacy and the duration of relationships, that the greater the intimacy, the longer the duration of the relationship, and vice-versa.”

“Greater intimacy and mutual understanding within the couple facilitates the decision to start a family and contribute to population replacement, even when such life projects are discouraged by economic problems, low wages, lack of housing and the need to care for elderly parents or relatives,” the researcher acknowledges with some sadness.

“Nevertheless, greater commitment within couples will always contribute to longer relationships and stronger families and thus greater opportunities for demographic renewal in the country,” Selene concludes as the sun hides behind the clouds and offers respite to rosy-cheeked tourists taking photos nearby.

For the time being, Selene dreams of consecrating her own plans of having a honeymoon in Varadero, find a job in the short term and also have children, in the mid-term.

Faced with the pressing challenge of impelling population replacement, Cuba looks to more legislative and economic solutions in the hopes of encouraging the having of children, through the guarantee of a decorous home for those who chose to start a family.

8 thoughts on “Cuba Threatened by Lack of Population Replacement

  • I can only share your hope that somehow the current regime concentrating upon how to hold its power and control eventually sees the light of freedom and an improved life for Cubans at the end of the black tunnel they have so carefully developed.

  • Not only does Cuba have a high divorce rate, they have one of the highest abortion rates in the world. People raise families when they have hope for the future and trust in their society. The social effects of the Cuban Revolution has been to crush hope, destroy trust, encourage emigration, and incentivize divorce and abortion. No wonder the Cuban nation faces a demographic crisis.

    Unless and until the Cuban government reverses those policies which have brought them to this state, nothing else they do will bring any hope for the future.

  • Increasing Cuba’s population via incentives would hardly seem advisable. Population growth is a key variable in increasing a countries production. It is not a variable that works outside of supporting socio economic conditions. If the plan is equal distribution of meager resources then less population is better. A thriving Cuba would be a magnet for people. Fix the economy, not birth rate.

  • Marriage is also an economic contract. Married couples in stable healthy relationships can in partnership out pace those with turbulount life’s. A system where advancement is possible fosters long term unions. Where the consequences of breaking up are not so grave, then long term unions have less value leaving us to indulge our animal spirits via indulging in variety.

  • Very pragmatic observations. While the University professors and the activist discuss academics the people suffer. Those that would be rulers exploit the consent of the gorverned with false hopes that don’t have a basis in reality. The Cuban people have learned much these past 50 years of both good and bad from the revolution. Must a good come at such a high price of personal freedom is what threatens the ruling class. For it is they that must deliver on improving every day life.

  • We in Canada accept a higher number of political and racial refugees per year relative to our population than the United States. You are correct in saying that citizens of many South American countries seek to move to North America because of the political legacy of Spain and a quick glance at the GDP of each of those countries demonstrates why. Most of them have an extreme political history of dictatorships of left and right. But here in these columns of the Havana Times, we discuss Cuba.
    You endeavor to persuade that the Cuban’s who risk their lives are just an example of yet another Latin American country’s population seeking a better life under a better form of government which reflects the capitalist system. Capitalism is far from perfect, but those who live under alternative systems seek its benefits.
    To me, this is not an academic discussion but a reality. Living most of my time in Cuba I know so many who wish to leave and who seek freedom. It is not just a consequence of the poverty (remember those average earnings of $20 per month and pension of $8 per month) but the Castro family regime imposition of restriction of knowledge by controlling all forms of access to information and freedom of public expression.
    So let us take the example of a Cuban teacher known to me, who accepted a teaching post in Venezuela. There she earned enough to purchase a false passport. With the nest egg she had built up, she flew to the Dominican Republic where she was jailed for using a false passport. The Dominicans let her out after one month on the condition she left the country – which she did by flying to Costa Rica which also jailed her. A Cuban/American couple learned of her plight and managed to get her to Miami. She is now saving and hoping to be able to eventually get her two children who are living with her parents, to Miami.
    This occurred this year – 2015!
    I am not an American, so I cannot explain precisely why the US introduced the Cuban Adjustment Act and later amended it with the “dry foot” policy. But I imagine they did it because the Castro Family regime after the revolution had adopted communism and in consequence Cubans were fleeing by the hundreds of thousands to the US.
    As one married to a Cuban and spending the majority of my time at home there, I am not influenced by any US media programs – it is noteworthy that the best news programs in the US are those provided by the BBC.
    What influences me is day to day contact with Cubans in a city well away from the tourist venues and the flesh-pots of Havana.
    It is noteworthy that those who support the dictatorship of the Castro family regime do not seek to reverse the flow out of Cuba by seeking to immigrate there – and you will find several writing in these columns. Rather they reflect academic socialist views – and a dictionary definition of academic includes: “pedantic, formal, unpractical, member of a university.” They illustrate this by endlessly promoting academic socialism and shutting their eyes to the realities of the practice of socialism as demonstrated now for fifty six dreary years in Cuba.

  • The movement of people from their country of origin to places portrayed as ‘rich’ or offering better ‘opportunities’ is not a unique phenomenon among Cubans. Every day, tens of thousands of desperate, poor Latin Americans travel thousands of miles at enormous risk to their well-being in order to attempt a dangerous desert border-crossing into the United States.

    Are those migrants ‘escaping’ capitalist countries where they are ‘stifled’ and ‘see no future’ for their families?

    Let’s not forget the continued existence of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which has been offering instant citizenship to Cubans since the early 1960s, for anyone foolish enough to risk their lives crossing the Florida Strait on rafts and inner tubes. That’s one hell of a magnet.

    Of course, the image of ‘desperate’ Cubans shown on US news channels has effectively seared into the uncritical minds who blindly support hostile U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba. Closed-loop strategies to portray the island as a tropical gulag, which it most assuredly is not.

    If Latin Americans had been offered instant citizenship for crossing the southern U.S. border, the past 50 years of Latin American migrant history would look very different, and the Spanish-speaking population of the USA would be considerably higher…

  • Well, Selene is in the wrong ball-court. Cuba’s population decline is a consequence of people leaving the country whenever the opportunity presents itself!
    Why do so many Cubans wish to leave the country?
    It is because they seek freedom and economic opportunity to be able to raise their children where the future beckons rather than rejecting!
    A very high percentage of Cubans have had sufficient of Socialismo and the impositions which it operates with impunity.
    The Castro family regime knows that it has these problems, but doesn’t care as it is able to preserve its power and control with the aid of the puppet Communist Party of Cuba.
    If Socialismo worked, then all those academic socialist admirers who bleat from the safety and security provided for them in free democratic countries would flock to join their fellow socialists in Cuba but they don’t!
    The people of Cuba do not lack ability or initiative, they are stifled by the system that is imposed upon them.
    Many prospective parents in Cuba hesitate to bear children because they see no future for them and as long as there is no freedom they will be correct.

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