HAVANA TIMES — While reading an international magazine, I came across a quote by Confucius that caught my attention: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
I spent the better part of the night awake, thinking of these words. I couldn’t fall asleep. I think that, had I had a gun within reach, I might have put a bullet in my brain to free myself of the many contradictory thoughts going through my head. Instead, I took an antihistamine (which always helps me sleep).
I am not a suicidal person, mind you. The way I see it, if I didn’t commit suicide in the 90s, why would I do it now? I am the kind of person who thinks human beings ought to keep moving forward, no matter what the obstacles. Isn’t that what we Cubans do these days anyway, take it without saying a word, hold our breath, even though the rope shows no signs of breaking?
One of the things that crossed my mind is that I was born here, that this is the country I was dealt. Even though I love my country, I realize that the clock is ticking. I suppose many feel the same way. I’ve already turned forty and can jot down an inventory of the things that have happened in my life.
I’ve had five dogs that have died. Now, I have a small cat who will also die someday, a cat that was born in this country. My dogs were also Cuban. I feel that the cat has been rather fortunate, as he is a black cat and they say there is no racism in Cuba.
None of my pets ever had a good diet. If we humans born in this land graced by the revolution (by de-evolution, to be more precise) don’t get to see much of that, you can imagine that animals have to content themselves with whatever is thrown their way (to make my point clearer, suffice it to note that my kitten does not yet know what a fish bone is).
My father also passed away. His name was Juan Armando Perea Hernandez. He was a revolutionary. His remains rest in the vault for revolutionary combatants in Havana’s Colon Cemetry. I suppose that’s a great honor. However, my father died without heroism, stripped of possessions, in absolute poverty, devoid even of a TV to watch the news on or a refrigerator to make popsicles in.
He died of cancer. While dying at home, none of these so-called “revolutionary combatants” ever came to see him and ask him if he needed anything.
I still preserve some of his medals as a keepsake. They’re worthless – I can’t even grind them up and make a soup out of them or add them to a plate of stew. Incidentally, a pound of red beans costs 15 pesos at the market these days. All food products, no matter how bad the quality, are being sold at ludicrous prices.
I don’t want to dwell on our hardships. I’ve written about them elsewhere and I hate being repetitive.
Repeating the same, tired phrases and disguising the old as new is what those in government do. In these past fifty and some years, they have used long speeches with subtle twists of rhetoric to manipulate citizens, who only know the same hardships year after year.
They clean their hands of the whole affair giving people honorary diplomas and medals, as though people could live off that.
One thing is clear: we are poor and we have food shortages. I don’t understand the reasons for this well. We are a small country surrounded by water. Despite this, the only fish that thrives here and is sold to the population is the claria. You put one of these in a nursery and, within two months, you have hundreds of fish. They even crawl out of the water and eat chickens on land.
If you catch a bus to travel to any province in the country, you immediately realize there are thousands of hectares of idle land, where you can grow food or construct buildings or houses for the many people in need of these.
Those who read this article will probably say there are not enough resources for that or that the government doesn’t have the money to pay for the manpower. Many people, as we know, don’t want to work in the countryside or in the construction industry because salaries are infinitesimal.
Before, we lived off the Russians. Today, we have to wait for Venezuela or China to help us. Are we always going to depend on others? The way things are going – and I hope I’m wrong – we will continue to be poor, because nothing works properly here. A lot of time has passed, and time has the last word.