Luis Miguel del Bahia

Classroom in Santiago de Cuba. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — My girlfriend is a teacher. She earns 500 pesos (22 USD) and her salary is never enough. Her mother has to help the best she can.

In August, she ran out of money near the first of the month. We survived by selling things.

We eat very modestly: rice, eggs, beans, and hotdogs when we have more money. We spent about a week wolfing these things down: eggs, white rice, and sometimes boiled potatoes.

We have a child in the house, but we don’t know if or how he’s growing, given his poor diet. He’s super skinny.

Much is said about Africa and capitalism, but what about us, what about our children? The Cuban state can’t expect a person to live on that miserable salary.

She can’t “hustle” in the street, nor does she want to. She hopes to earn a decent living. But it seems that “werewolf values” aren’t restricted to life under capitalism.

We looked at stands where they sell things in hard currency. The prices aren’t affordable to us.

Why do the most essential things, like milk, cost so much.

The revolution was for the poor, but the truth is that today the only ones who can have full stomachs are those with the wealth.

She works eight hours a day, some Saturdays, educating the future generation. Meanwhile, others hustle and live a luxury life.

Is that social justice? “Down with Batista the murderer” isn’t only applicable to him.


Luis Miguel del Bahia

Luis Miguel del Bahia: I am not from anywhere – I am born only of Being, or so I seek to be. In truth, I was born in Havana’s neighborhood of Bahia in the year 1989. When I reached adolescence, I felt I didn’t fit in here and managed to leave for Spain. Working at a factory, I came to understand what capitalism was and that I didn’t want it for the rest of my life. I decided to return to the neighborhood, where I currently work as a computer programmer. From time to time, I open a philosophy book to try and understand the System.

13 thoughts on “Difficult Times

  • I once took a cab from LA Airport. The driver spoke good English with an accent. He told me he emigrated from Russia and I asked him how he found it living in the US. Canadians, at least the 35 million of us that have decided they would rather live in Canada, always wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to emigrate to the US – well, okay, there are a couple of deep winter months when we start to think twice about it but spring arrives and we quickly return to our senses. [smiling].

    Well, my question opened up a floodgate. For the entire ride, my ears were filled with a litany of complaints about what was wrong in his new country – things he took for granted in Russia – the same things Cubans take for granted – health care, education for his kids, guaranteed housing, etc, etc. I’ve also heard the same perspective from people who emigrated to Canada from ex-Soviet bloc countries although at least we have a universal health care system.

    With the latest immigration reforms just announced, allowing Cubans who emigrated illegally to return, it sounds like the government is calling the bluff of US propagandists who woo its citizens away with preferential treatment. An option for expatriates when the dream fantasy turns sour…

  • Luis Miguel,

    I can only second what Grady wrote. Your last sentence seems to be an ill-disguised call for the violent overthrow of your government. No mainstream media in my country, or any non-mainstream media, for that matter, would ever dare carry anything like this. But perhaps the Cuban government is more tolerant than its detractors give it credit for.

    Your short article has been titled “Difficult Times”. That may be appropriate. Traditionally, those who struggle to get by call it ‘hard times’. My experience in Cuba, and I’ve talked about it a lot with Canadians, both here and in Cuba, is that, while on the surface people seem poor, no one is starving, few are begging on the street, there are no ‘street people’ – the homeless, crime and drug use is minimal relative to here, and there are nor long lines at unemployment offices.

    Doctors and nurses are seen EVERYWHERE. My favourite picture that went by before I could get my camera out was two nurses in white caps on a bike, one pedalling, the other riding on back – on their way to or from work.

    Another favourite picture, also seen everywhere, were children in school uniforms going to school in the morning and coming home in the afternoon. The only children I’ve seen in other Latin American countries I’ve visited have been begging in the street for pesos or selling one-peso packets of chiclets. Where I live, in Toronto, children are driven or walked to school due to fear they will be assaulted by paedophiles. How healthy is that?

    NO Canadian I have ever talked to feels anything but good about what they see after visiting Cuba. They recognise the general lack of money that makes it necessary to find ways to make ends meet other than what you get from a government salary – difficult times perhaps, but not hard times.

    As the world economy continues to tank and countries like Canada, relatively unaffected up to now, are starting to feel its effects – a forecast for tougher times just came out here this week – I think it might be best to start putting your difficult times in perspective to the hard times more and more people are encountering in their country. And that’s the god’s honest truth.

  • “America has never promised that everyone would succeed, only that everyone would have a fair chance to do so.”

    My ‘friend’, the most illusioned people here is you. You talk about a Cuban utopia that doesn’t exist as if the American dream wasn’t a myth.

    You talk about a ‘fair chance’ but some immigrants – Cubans for example – have more chances than others because of the Cuban Adjustment Act. While Mexicans are hunted down like pigs.

  • I am sorry to hear that you are disillusioned. There are millions of immigrants like you who have equally fared much better than you as well. America has never promised that everyone would succeed, only that everyone would have a fair chance to do so. Even on that promise there have been setbacks. However, from your story it does not sound like you were denied an opportunity by the color of your skin or who you chose to love. However, only you know if you had a fair shot. I believe that you admire Cubans because you really don´t know what life is like in Cuba. My wife was among the most recognized faces on TV in Cuba and yet she could not live on her salary. She wore her own clothes on national TV each day as there was no wardrobe budget. After budget cutbacks eliminated transportation for her at 4:30am, she had to find a taxi on dark Cuban streets just to get to the station. As there were no buses at that hour she spend more than her monthly salary just on taxi fare. I think you are well to imagine a utopian Cuba but that utopia does not exist.

  • I hear you on everything you’ve said, jerzy. I live in Santa Monica, California, which is a relatively nice part of the enormous Los Angeles area. The Audi and BMW dealerships are selling high-end cars constantly, while working people here and all over live hand-to-mouth and exist only to serve those on the top of the heap, especially the landlords.

    L.A. and the whole US is a land of tenement serfs, homeless wretches, arrogant drivers putting on airs, and pablum b.s. everywhere one looks. And yet, there are people who post comments to HT articles who spin the lie that capitalism works and is a glorious system.

    Thank you for stating the real truth of the American dream, that it is a phony illusion and more of a nightmare. I fear however that Cubans will never appreciate what they have, until they lose it.

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