HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 17 — There was an article in Havana Times last week that I especially liked, “Only God and the Law Can Judge,” written by my colleague Maria Matienzo (who allowed me to borrow from the title of her post).
With great ease, many people inside and outside the island criticize Cubans who they see forced to jinetear (hustle), prostitute, lie and even commit crimes to meet their basic needs.
Too often we hear that Cuban women sell themselves for nothing, or simply give themselves away, that we’re used to lying to survive, and that theft in Cuba has reached all levels – with stealing as common for a milkman or a shoemaker as it is for the Minister of Construction or the one of Telecommunications.
Much of this is true. It’s also true that you can work honestly and live like most people. But that doesn’t mean that all of us are satisfied with working 24 days a month to earn between 300 and 600 pesos (between about US $12 and $24 a month) – not even enough to maintain a balanced diet.
To understand the situation, one would have to speak to parents who have two or three children, who are in the best position to tell about how they manage to feed their family; buy shoes, clothing and a few toys; and take their children out occasionally, even if it’s just for some commemorative event. Who says parents can do all that on two wages totaling 32 CUCs (US $29) for a family of five?
Unfortunately not all of us can resign ourselves to living with our parents, siblings, nephews and uncles in a house where not even the dinner table is big enough for everyone, much less the living space.
For some it’s not so easy to accept our inability to travel to other countries simply for being born in Cuba, a country whose immigration laws strip citizens of their rights if they dare to seek livelihoods elsewhere.
And if the economic situation of ordinary Cubans is difficult, what’s sadder and more hopeless is that of professionals, who see year after year pass by without a glimpse of any improvement. They need a foreign “collaboration mission” to buy in just two years (being paid less than half the standard salary in whatever country they find themself) what they wouldn’t be able to save in Cuba even after 20 years of work.
That’s not to mention those with “contrary opinions,” people who feel marginalized in a society that doesn’t forgive those who think differently.
These situations and others have made many Cubans abandon their solidarity and altruism of the ‘80s to become liars, schemers and opportunists. Not everyone is like that, but only “God and the law can judge.” I can’t, Maria can’t – and I don’t think anyone else can either.