HAVANA TIMES, August 10 — On weekends, families here in Guantanamo generally take advantage of the time to go for walks and forget their problems at home and at work.
Saturdays during the summer become special days for getting out into the fresh air, for taking trips to the beach, to the zoo, or maybe for visiting the amusement park or going on a picnic anywhere that’s green. Then too, some people prefer to eat out or to simply visit relatives who live far away.
This Saturday, the first rays of light announced that it would be an ideal day for just about any family plan. After a rainy afternoon cools the air and eliminates the dust, there’s nothing like a sunny day for going for a walk with your children. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was flat broke, it looked like it would be a perfect day.
Unfortunately it’s getting increasingly difficult for ordinary Cubans to make it on their family budgets. It doesn’t matter if you work privately or for the government, or if you’re professional or not. If you don’t work in tourism (legally or illegally), if you are not retired as a civilian who worked on the US Navy Base or if you don’t receive family remittances regularly, then month after month you’re going to see yourself out of luck.
By the end of this week my pockets were crying, which explains why my face is so sad when I look around and say hi to my closest neighbors. Some of them have cheerful faces (the minority), while others wear frowns more intense than mine. I try to find out if they have some particular or special problem or if it’s that we’re all sharing the same misfortune.
Maria, my neighbor on the right hand side, doesn’t have anything to wash with this weekend. With her three children in the house on vacation, she’ll have to come up with some way to deal with the load of clothes that has piled up.
My uncle Pablo was just complaining out in the patio because his bicycle broke down again and he can’t buy the parts he needs to repair it.
The heavy-set lady who sells light snack foods on the corner is fuming because her business is going poorly and she can barely pay for the food. “Coño [damn], nobody’s going to get ahead like this,” she moaned to a friend of hers who wanted a bread roll on credit. He wasn’t surprised, she’s always like that, yelling and shouting, but in the end she’ll help you and even smile.
A new neighbor commented to Ines, the woman on the second floor, that her own son is driving her crazy. “Month after month I see my pay disappearing on footwear. This kid is hell on shoes. Between the poor quality at the store and the way he has of walking, nothing holds up. I can’t buy anything else. I’m working just to buy his shoes.”
Ricardito, a six-year-old boy and also my favorite neighbor, was mad when he came looking for my girls. He was complaining because his parents didn’t want to take him to the amusement park. “Mommy can never do anything about anything. I don’t know why she works,” he told me.
I explained to him that life isn’t as easy as it seems, and that when he starts working maybe things will go well economically, but maybe not. At least for now, all he has to do is open his mouth to get most of the things he wants.
“When you work you’ll have to be a magician to take care of yourself and your kids – but don’t rush! You’re going to see it all with you own eyes soon enough.” Of course he didn’t like my answer, as he continued grumbling while taking toys out of my daughters’ magic box.
Lidia didn’t know what to cook either. She didn’t have a single egg. “I might as well disconnect the refrigerator, the only thing we have in it is water,” she told me laughing, knowing full well there was nothing funny.
So finally, what had appeared would be a wonderful day wound up being an ordinary one. It seems the all-powerful Lord Cash is even capable of screwing up a summer Saturday.