Cubans with Hard Times & Happy Faces

Rosa Martinez 

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, July 29 – I’m one of those people who think that the difficult times should be combatted with optimism, a good sense of humor and even with a smile from time to time.

The bad things we’re all going through won’t matter if we welcome the day with joy and the desire to reach our dreams.  That way, things will go better even though the problems are still lurking out there.

If it wasn’t for the Creole humor that characterizes Cubans — making us act the same way at a party, in a baptism or at a wake — I don’t know what would have become of us during all these years of extreme shortages and dire economic crisis.

Some foreigners say that Cubans are the only people who laugh at their own misfortunes.  Of course we aren’t the sole ones, but it’s quite true that we make fun of the lack of protein on our plates, our wages that don’t stretch and the fact that we can’t say what we think without looking for problems.

But it’s one thing to try to lead one’s life the best way possible, and it’s another very different thing to be partying all the time.  I say this because of a very poor neighborhood to the east of Guantanamo City that I visit frequently because I have a close friend who lives there.

I’ve visited Hilda thousands of times, and never — with no exaggeration — have I ever gone into her neighborhood without hearing music thumping at full volume.  I don’t remember having known more cheerful people.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday, if it’s morning or if it’s at night, someone is always livening up the surroundings with salsa, reggaeton or some other rhythm.  Since the houses are made of wood, most in poor condition, when one person puts on their music, everyone else is obliged to also “enjoy” it.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m for happiness and a good disposition in life, but every time I visit my friend I witness the terrible conditions of her neighbors.  Most live in old wooden houses or ones patched together with cardboard and sheets of corrugated aluminum.  The street is like a gutter that floods the whole neighborhood every time three drops of fall from the sky.  People live on extremely low wages, the children go without toys, many of the men are alcoholics and the women have no future.

Every time I go there I wonder if these people have some reason for so much happiness.  Today someone responded off hand: “I’m happy,” they said in a lively fashion, “I’m happy because I’m alive and that’s something to celebrate.  It’s necessary to sing to life, which is the most valuable thing we possess.”