A Cuban Mother’s Drive

Rosa Martinez

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Fernanda is one of my good friends from the university. Though she’s much younger than I am, we still have lots of things in common.

When I look at her, I see myself about 10 or 12 years ago, and not only because her hair is long and curly like mine, or for the smile that’s always on her lips.

I don’t understand some of the things Fernanda does, but I always try to support her and help her the best I can.

She’s always saying that she admires me for struggling so hard, but she also criticizes me because she thinks I sacrifice too much.

Yesterday was one of those days when I stopped in my thoughts and said to myself, “Girl, where do you get the strength to work so much.”

I’m a professor at the University of Guantanamo, I have another contract teaching grammar, I write for Havana Times, and I sell soft drinks from my house – in addition to the housework, which takes more than a little effort.

“You’re a magician, Rosa,” I told myself. I don’t know how I manage to do so much. I dedicate myself to my college classes but I feel there isn’t enough time for me to dedicate to myself.

Then I thought, “Why do I go through so much if we always end up in the same position. No matter how much we struggle, we’re always broke.” With that I was left momentarily speechless.

But it seemed there was more. Thinking to myself, I added: “I’m tired of working so hard for 25 CUCs (about $27 USD) a month.

I spend the entire month preparing classes and dealing with unruly students and the quibbling of our boss. Plus, I really don’t know how I continue to work after I get home. I’m dead tired by the time I step inside.

Yet, finally I felt like I had a way to explain it all to Fernanda. I could answer her by explaining how much I enjoy working and how I can’t stand wasting time.

But Fernanda would think I was crazy. Most Cubans believe that nobody likes to work, that people only do it for the money and not out of love for their profession.

So I figured it would probably be better not to bring that discussion up.

Perhaps I could convince her with the idea about how work ennobles people and how we can only achieve what we desire through labor.

She’d reply calling that a bold faced lie. She’s already been working for three years and still can’t buy a descent watch on her salary.

Then too, I could try to convince her by saying that I have to put my knowledge into practice, otherwise I’ll forget it all.

But, I prefer to be more realistic and use the only argument I know that will convince her.

I’ll tell her, when you have a child who looks up at you in desperation and says: “Mommy, I’m hungry,” and you know full well that two salaries aren’t enough to satisfy that basic request, then Fernanda, then you’ll know where my strength comes from.