Nor Can I Judge

Rosa Martinez

Photo: Caridad

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.

4 thoughts on “Nor Can I Judge

  • Izabel :I agree with all you said previously I have witness the laughter of cubans when they talk about exploiting foreigners refering to them as “bobos”. What concerns me is the mentality of the other cubans that witness the exploitation when they say” If only I can be so lucky to find a bobo”. I have come to not judge this behavior and have come to accept it as cuban culture due to being poor and without hope of their lives improving in any other way. In the same time feel lucky to be born Canadian with hope and integrity tim

  • Marion, thanks for your comment.
    I agree with what you say, it’s easy to rationalize and take complacency for non-jugment, forgiveness and open-mindedness. And even love or friendship.
    I’m a Native American Woman from Canada, I know what being poor and hungry can be. I experienced it.
    Anyhow, to me even being poor or less well off then someone else does not make the fact of lying, manipulating and exploiting others ok. It can explain but does not make it more acceptable.
    Accepting lack of integrity of any kind, has nothing to do with loving someone (or even a culture or a nation) right.

  • It is true, this is a very important article to be published here. It is the essence of the Cuban way of life. People around the world need to realize that wrongdoings by Cubans will not be judged negatively by their compatriots, but rather rationalized and defended due to necessity.

    The only correction – Cuban law does not strip the vast majority of citizens from leaving the country, an exit visa is granted to most applicants. For the most part Cubans cannot leave the country because the bulk of the countries do not grant easy entrance to Cuban citizens.

    Cubans will lie, steal, scheme and none of that is judged to be wrong, after all it is the price of survival. A Cuban will not be judged for destroying a life of for example an unsuspecting foreigner though lies and deception. After all Cubans are mistreated by the world, so it’s only fair to exact this revenge onto a foreigner – they are collectively responsible for the suffering of Cubans. Not only a Cuban will not judge others for immoral and criminal behaviour, it is very typical for family and friends to support and encourage fraud ( referring to what happens when a foreigner is entrapped in a false relationship).
    And it does not matter that there are plenty of poorer countries in this world where people actually are dying of hunger, a Cuban belief is that a life of prosperity is something of a right.
    The president of the national airline Cubana de Aviacion was recently prosecuted for reselling usage of company’s airplanes outside of offficial routes, for personal profit. Roumors have it they found a gold bar in the water tank of the executive. National resources are being used for personal profit all across the board, in numerous entities. A number of top executives of the national communications company are in jails now. To steal, defraud is entering the consciousness as the new “normal” and new generations are taught not to judge, but rather do the same.
    Cubans have a saying, in Cuba trust nobody. That warning and the ethical standards of psychology need to be understood if we are to understand the Cuban way of life.
    Thank you for this article, it is very insightful.

  • Possibly the most important article ever published on

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