How Cubans Come Second… in Cuba

By Julio Antonio Fernandez Estrada  (El Toque)

Photo: Cossett Perez

HAVANA TIMES – A few days ago, a Cuban friend of mine living in Ecuador told me that on a quick trip to Havana, it was easier for his young daughter, born in Cuba, to become an Ecuadorian citizen, than it was for a girl who was born in Havana, with her mother registered as residing in Santiago de Cuba, to become a legal resident of Havana.

It is also easier to drink Dutch or Dominican beer on hot nights in the Cuban capital than it is to drink Cuban beer, which is why that slogan of “What’s Mine First” seems to be more like the title of this article today.

For decades, Cubans have picked up on a kind of discrimination because of our national origins, which we have experienced not at the hands of any enemy power but at the hands of our own State.

We were the only ones who couldn’t buy in hard-currency stores for a long time, we were the only ones who couldn’t stay at hotels (all of which were state-run), and there are still hoops we have to jump through so we can use sea transport in national territory.

Cubans can’t invest in any business that is important to the country’s economic development because the law only contemplates foreign investment, and the new draft Constitution guarantees the latter but doesn’t accept the former.

Cubans, who can now stay in our hotels, which are built on the people’s land, can’t benefit from the tourist packages that allow foreigners to pay for an all-inclusive hotel in Varadero, with flights included, which is almost half what any Cuban citizen has to pay a state-run agency, located in any of our cities.

Born and raised on the Caribbean’s largest island, our State hasn’t defended us as you would expect them to when we receive irritating treatment at foreign embassies and consulates in Cuba, when we try to travel to other countries for different reasons.

I myself have seen the brutality that Cuban nationals have to suffer at embassies and consulates when they don’t have all their documents in order like the official on duty would like it to be, or when a nervous Cuban doesn’t properly answer the outrageous question the clerk asks.

I have watched how Cubans are forced to wait in line under the burning sun, for an interview or to receive news about their visa application.

Many of us have suffered the suspicion that people in these offices look at us with, offices in which we are forced to lie about our bank accounts because very few people in Cuba have them, about assets which can’t be proven with legal documents.

We have reached the absurd situation of having to take a suitcase in cash, loaned to us beforehand, from a loan shark sometimes, so that we can show the consulate that they can trust us to travel to their countries.

Foreign states can believe whatever they like about us, they can punish us for living in a Communist state, for not standing up against socialism, for being fun-loving or dilettante, but our country shouldn’t allow others to charge us over 400 USD for a visa on our own soil, as if we were dangerous citizens.

Depending on how you want to interpret history, many revolutions, or just one, have taken place in Cuba to win our independence, to be worth the same as a foreigner who had subjugated us, so we weren’t tied to a single crop, to a single form of wealth production, to one importer or one trade partner.

We have fought and lived making huge sacrifices in order to be sovereign, to not have owners or bosses, but there are still chains that we must carry with us, as if the machetes of yesteryear were only any good to keep museum displays intact.

Destiny is sometimes crude and screws you over. Instead of Cacique beer made in Cuba it has placed the Spanish Presidente beer in front of us, as if our past of leadership and force had been subrogated by another more modern, foreign and distant one, which still proposes that we live in dependence and discrimination.

2 thoughts on “How Cubans Come Second… in Cuba

  • December 10, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    In our community we used to drink Bucanero or Cristal, the two main Cuban beers. About four years ago, supplies became intermittent, then foreign beer Heineken was introduced at 1,65 CUC compared with the 1 CUC price of Cuban beer. This was followed by Presidente from the Dominican Republic, then Corona from Mexico, then Hollandia – all at above 1 CUC. The price of Heineken was then reduced to 1.25 CUC. now there is even American suds in the GAESA TRD and CIMEX stores, but NO Cuban beer!
    Obviously with total market control and the popularity of the Cuban beer, the logical and sound business practice would have been to increase national production and simultaneously employment for Cubans. But as demonstrated by the regime in the construction industry with the reconstruction of the Kempinsky Manzanas Hotel, the regime favours foreign labour.
    One wonders just how much corruption lurks around Revolution Square and its offices?

  • December 10, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    I will never go back to Cuba again. I am from the States, I speak Spanish, and I went to Cuba with three Mexicans. None of us will ever go back. There is so much still wrong with Cuba. A young waitress gave us by mistake, twice the Cuban menu. My meal was 6.00 American (USA) dollars. The third night a waitress that was experienced, gave us the foreign menu. My same plate of food cost 26.00 dollars. My wife said we would not pay it, and we would walk out if we had to pay that. The older waitress said the prices changed. No, my wife said, not that much. We got the price original price. We saw so much, speaking Spanish, that we will never go back. It is not just Cubans that have problems, but foreigners too. I could go on-and-on, but I will stop here. Yes, the Cubans have problems, we talked to them, but foreigners also have problems.

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