By Miguel Arias Sanchez
HAVANA TIMES – William Mulet Garcia is 79 years old, and anyone might think he spends his days sitting down, watching TV and resting, but William belongs to a generation that can’t sit still.
HT: Where do you live? What did you study?
William Mulet Garcia: I’m from San Miguel del Padron, in Havana, I only studied to the 6th grade, dropped out of school and never stepped inside a classroom again. But I have never been lazy. I’ve liked working ever since I was little and I would look at what other people were doing, so I learned how to do everything. I could never give myself the luxury of going to school, it was like wasting time back then; I needed money to survive, to help out my family.
HT: What kind of trades did you learn? Do you still do them?
WMG: I’ve done everything in my lifetime, no matter how hard it’s been. I learned plumbing, bricklaying and carpentry. I also learned other useful things like basic electrics, etc. I know how to do everything around the house, and I know how to do it well. That also includes cooking, cleaning, etc. I worked as a builder for the State for many years, and now I do it freelance. Whenever somebody calls, I go. We used to have a really good popular saying in the past: if you learn something well, you never forget it, and you don’t need to go to school to learn it.
HT: Are you limited by your age? You have mentioned hard work, that requires a lot of physical energy. Doesn’t it pose a risk to your physical health?
WMG: Not at all, on the contrary, I can carry a block or put in a sink. I’m also a messenger, I have ten customers who I buy gas for. I carry a 20 kg barrel up to the first or fifth floor. Nothing stops me. I have always been a working man and the body gets used to the pace you set it, which is quite tough in my case, and I still feel good.
HT: There are many aging people in Cuba who can’t get by on their pensions. Do you live alone?
WMG: Yes, my wife passed away years ago, we had three children: a girl who also passed away and two boys. We visit and talk to each other, but we all live on our own and have our own families, life is very hard. So, even though they help me out, I carry on doing what I need to; pensions are very little so I can’t rest. When people get older, they fall back on their children a little and I don’t want to be a burden… as long as I am of some use, I’ll carry on struggling.
HT: You always wear a pair of olive green pants, were you in the military?
WMG: No. I was a militiaman in the early years of the Revolution and I was in the army, they wanted me to swear to serve to 25 years, but I didn’t. If I’m being honest, I did think about it for the salary and other benefits, but I don’t like to be ordered about, I want to be my own boss, decide my own steps forward. I recognize the good things the Revolution has done, people my age know this is real; and I also criticize what doesn’t sit well with me, I’m not blind. I have always been interested in being a decent man. My father used to tell me over and over again: don’t get mixed up in politics, it’s the dirtiest business out there, and everyone who does only does it to hold a position and have a good life. And I’ve seen this with my own two eyes over the years.
HT: So, what are your political beliefs?
WMG: I already told you: work, work and work, have 20 pesos in your wallet, not depending on anyone and living an honest life. I see people sitting at home nowadays, or standing about on street corners, scamming others, lying to find their next meal. No, that isn’t right. I know young people who work hard and earn their living with their blood, sweat and tears, but many young people don’t share this spirit. It’s as if they were brought up thinking they deserve the moon, I don’t know.
HT: Is there any advice you would like to give to young people today?
WMG: Of course. To study as much as they can, as they will suffer a lot when they realize that they are being left behind, that people around them are getting ahead and you’re stuck in the same old. And yes, like in my own case, if they don’t like studying it doesn’t matter, they can be good workers, people who work hard and with a lot of sacrifice, being useful to society and themselves. This personal satisfaction is great compensation. So you can educate your children better, to be an example for the people around you. I don’t live in luxury but I live with my head held high.