HAVANA TIMES, August 23 — If there’s one thing I understand clearly, it’s that I wouldn’t like to live in a country that wasn’t my own, nor one under a capitalist regime. But what’s capitalism, really? And is Cuba truly a socialist country?
These are questions I ask myself over and over again, because every year that goes by I realize that our way of life isn’t changing. We’re a people stuck in time.
I’m 38 and I’ve never traveled abroad, and I don’t know my country very well either. Practically all I know about capitalism is what I see on TV. But then too, I remember my grandmother’s anecdotes; she used to tell me about life under the Batista dictatorship, about stores full of food and clothes…for those who could afford them.
That was capitalism.
But what can I say about present-day Cuba if when you go into a hard currency “dollar stores” — almost always spellbinding with their rows of glittering goods and colorful signs — and you find them packed with food and clothes…for those who can afford them.
The problem is that many of us don’t have someone abroad who can send us money to help out with our expenses. The little that an ordinary worker can afford at a dollar store are basic toiletries, the cheapest items, which on today’s salaries are impossible if you have children depending on you. Likewise, if you have a sick relative who needs things like fruit, milk, meat and juices, which are very expensive.
When I was working my salary was always 12 pesos a day ($0.50 USD), meaning that though I work eight hours a day, my monthly pay isn’t enough for the most basic necessities. I don’t even think about buying a sweater, a pair of shorts or some flip-flops.
Nor does my check give me the pleasure of buying pork, because right now it costs 40 pesos a pound, enough for three sandwiches, which is way too expensive given my other expenses.
You can still get six pounds of rice off the ration book, but that’s not enough to last a month either. Nor are the beans – they give each person around a pound a month, just enough for about one lunch and a dinner.
To really understand, it’s necessary to be in Cuba, to experience Havana. You’d have to live with any family for it all to register.
Today’s Cuban isn’t interested in anything else other than “struggling” for their family. The fact is that they don’t know much about politics; it’s all about struggling to bring home food for you and yours.
What’s sad is that as time goes by, we’re growing older here without even being able to dream about the situation changing. In fact, I believe that Cubans have stopped having dreams of the future, since through day-to-day life we recognize that we have very few possibilities, few chances for the young or for those who aren’t so young. That’s where we’re at; and we’ve been there for a good while.
Watching TV we’re able to keep up with the economic crisis hitting Europe. They report to us over and over again about other people’s deaths and miseries. But now I wonder, what about our misery? How much longer will our crisis last?