In Cuba, It’s Better to Sell Peanuts

By Yusimi Rodriguez (photos: Caridad)

HAVANA TIMES — She was one of many old señoras selling peanuts in Havana. But what caught my eye was her appearance. She looked as if she had been educated in the humanities, or something similar. But I was wrong – she was an engineer, with over 25 years of experience at the time of her retirement.

In her words: “I’m not against the regime, but a week selling peanuts brings me in more money than my monthly salary when I was working, not to mention retirement. Here, it’s not worth studying.”

I tried to interview her but she refused.

All she said was, “Hey, I’m just one of many. I know a couple of retired doctors who make their living selling peanuts too.”

Then she quickly added: “But hell, in other countries it’s worse. Look at the unemployment in Spain – 25 percent! There are people my age over there who don’t have the flimsiest safety net. At least here I have my retirement check.”

An irrefutable argument

Firstly: Her response was politically correct. This woman didn’t know me or my intentions, nor did she know the consequences of what she was saying to me. Just in case, it was better to make her position crystal clear.

Secondly: It’s true. The economic crisis has left many Europeans in an unenviable situation. In Spain, the jobs that up until now were carried out by immigrants are now becoming highly prized among native-born Spaniards.

In the end, our government will have all due reason to acknowledge the world crisis.

On the one hand, it helps to support its worn-out excuse concerning the blockade, which justifies the state’s ineffectiveness.

On the other, how the hell can we complain if the rest of the world is in the same situation – and in many cases worse?


8 thoughts on “In Cuba, It’s Better to Sell Peanuts

  • Right on my man. Typical of a failing system where grandiose plans often lay in ruins . To hold on to power and institute economic reforms they need to look to the China model. but modify it for their own use.. “I don,t care if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice” Deng Hsio-ping . Prosperity is arriving with growing pains but the political hold is stable for now in Peking.

  • Moses is probably right but hard times will be in Spain for years to come. This lady I may have ecountered myself BUT I consider them to be mendigos ( beggars) and never buy from them . She probably makes good income however take a good look at her she is not typical of most Cubans her age , she is dischevelled ultra poor and maybe even homeless. She can tell you anything on the spur of the moment and you have no way to verify it.. As for John Sparre he is a conspiratorist and a pessamist. of the worst kind. Most Cubans are cheerfuly ignorant of the outside world and prefer to live day by day . They are eterrnal optimists and seldom complain. 80% are apolitical and just wish to get on with their lives . La vida es dura pero la vida es buena

  • i wonder if economist moses has ever been in cuba. i won’t dispute that buildings in cuba fall down every week but i haven’t seen recently fallen buildings. i have seen baroque facades with no building behind them. the hotel chain habaguenex will use their profits to restore them and there is a building product in malaysia called N9, i think, which doesn’t need steel reinforcing. moses, the economic future of spain and the other PIGS, britain, france and the euro zone and america itself is uncertain. it took 12 years from 1929 to 1941 to return to full employment in the great depression in america but there is no new deal or roosevelt on the horizon now. there is just right wingnut obstructionism on behalf of billionaires. there is 1 sector which is doing very well in spite of the recession caused by american and european bankster thieves. tourism. alcohol and gambling do well in recession and if drugs are ever legalised then the bankster money launderers will be in deep shit again. movies do well in recession and tourism may be the modern up market equivalent in a richer society. there is a solution to buildings falling down every week. burn them for the insurance as has been done in many cities in a country i won’t mention after the tax credits run out.

  • Moses: Excellent explanation. Spain has its problem but eventually it will recover from the economic slump. cuba has been and still is, in permanent economic crisis (I rather say Disaster), for almost 51 years and now with a late burst of cholera ….and Cuba’s crisis still goes on and on and on………

  • Politicans and heads of state all over the world now say on record that we’re all connected. The economic situation is a world-wide situation. People of good conscience have got to start helping one another. I hope the woman you quoted is able to live well. If you find out that she’s having some sort of problem eating well, people in Cuba should try to help. My best wishes to you.

  • Does it matter? Is one word of what I say untrue? Who are you to ask?

  • Who is this Moses?

  • You can complain because the prospects for recovery in Cuba are far worse. In Spain, physical infrastructure is intact. In Cuba, buildings literally fall down every week. Many times taking lives with them. In Spain, once national banks regain the capactiy to begin lending again, business will be able to expand, and hiring will begin anew. EU support has been assured and bailouts have begun to restore bank liquidity. Modes of production in Spain remain sound albeit dormant. In Cuba, the hope is for tourism, family remittances from abroad and outside foreign investment to invigorate the economy with additional hard currency. Venezuelan oil subsidies are threatened by the health of Chavez and his reelection prospects. This is far more speculative and dependent on circumstances beyond Cuban control. While Spain must reform their past record of overspending and indebtednes, the reality is that Spain’s overall economic model is sound and only in need of correction. Fidel himself recently remarked that the Cuban economic model does not work for Cuba. Cuba, therefore, must reinvent itself while at the same time hoping to maintain the triumphant free education and free medical services for its people. Spanish leadership has shown over and again a willingness to correct the past mistakes made, especially those made by opposing party governments. Cuba must rely on the willingness of the regime to admit it’s own past mistakes and make drastic changes accordingly. Finally, the Spanish people have full access to all information available both positive and negative in making their decisions about their future. Cubans must accept on blind faith the reforms their leaders hope to implement as their capacity to be informed is severely limited if not non-existent. While it may seem the rest of the world is in the same situation, the reality is the way out for Cuba is much more tenuous.

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