Ernesto Pérez Chang
HAVANA TIMES — While Holguin, one of Cuba’s eastern cities, continues to be known as “the city of parks”, Havana will soon be known as “the city of parking lots”, one of my neighbors jokingly told me.
He also tells me that, now that since the sale of automobiles has been authorized, he predicts that, despite the low monthly wages, every citizen will be able to purchase a car in a few years’ time, because the astronomical prices of cars weren’t conceived as an obstacle but as an “incentive.”
“The faith and optimism of citizens must be restored” is the maxim one could take away from the exorbitant prices of cars in Cuba. I believe this, and only this, explains why gigantic signs reading “55 Years: New Challenges, New Victories” have been put up near car dealerships.
Perhaps they are trying to encourage low-income people like ourselves, who have started doing the math in all too pessimistic ways, without factoring in the miracles Cuban medical science can work.
I recommend that those who think 55 years is a long time read the other signs that speak of the life expectancy of Cubans and the possibility that, under the care of our health system, human beings could live more than 120 years. Thus having to wait 55 years to buy a Peugeot is a trifle.
I can already picture some government officials going around the city, armed with loudspeakers, singing an updated version of that tango sung by Carlos Gardel, “To feel that life is over in a breath, that 55 years is nothing, that men die but the Party is inmortal, la, la, la.”
At the same time they will encourage citizens to exercise, eat low-calorie foods, maintain revolutionary optimism and sobriety, factors that prolong life and, coupled with systematic savings, could guarantee one could ultimately purchase a 200,000 CUC car earning 30 CUC a month. “Gentlemen, there’s plenty of time for someone who is to live as long as Methuselah!”
Like my neighbor, I prophesy that, following such a vigorously persuasive campaign, automobile sales will skyrocket and that large parking lots will spring up all around the city.
It’s not that there aren’t enough resources to rebuild the hundreds of buildings and shanties that collapse because of the rains and the passage of time, no. The fact is that the spaces cleared by these buildings are needed to protect the future possessions of citizens.
This coming weekend, my neighbor and his wife say they are going to pick a car at a dealership together, to start their savings plan. They’ve already planned a very modest life for themselves, inspired by the authentic lifestyle of the Stone Age.
My neighbor’s wife, who is very good at math, has been crunching the numbers. Every night, before going to bed, she merrily says to her husband: “Stay positive, honey, all we have to do is save our full salaries, without spending a cent, for only 8,334 months. Which is to say that, if we’re lucky, in 695 years I will drive our dear remains to the cemetery myself.”