HAVANA TIMES — The paltriness of Cuban salaries is the topic which is most repeatedly discussed in all gatherings on the island, formal and not.
Hoping to finally hear that changes are coming in this direction, people expectantly follow the ordinary and extraordinary sessions of the National Assembly and even listen attentively to any address delivered by the president during a commemorative ceremony.
The fact is that the raising of wages, the consolidating of the two currencies into one and the de-regulation of Internet access are the three main measures the Cuban State has yet to implement.
However, the salary issue is foremost in people’s minds. This is because basic articles of crucial importance continue to be prohibitively expensive for Cubans, as becomes evident by looking at the average income of the population.
As has been said on hundreds of different occasions, in view of their measly salaries, Cubans face the eternal dilemma of deciding what basic purchases to prioritize and which to postpone.
This dilemma rears its ugly head as much on payday as when a relative or friend living abroad sends a little money as a gift, or when one wins the local community lottery (which, though prohibited by Law, almost everyone secretly plays). Then, Cubans start to behave like the Cucarachita Martina (“Martina the Cockroach”).
Don’t laugh, allow me to explain. La Cucarahita Martina is a popular fairy-tale that everyone knows in Cuba, no matter what generation they belong to.
It tells the story of a cockroach that finds a coin on the ground while sweeping the entrance to her house. Not knowing what to do with this coin, she goes from place to place asking: “What will I buy with this coin, what will I buy?”
The cockroach finally decides to buy a makeup kit, which she then uses to pretty herself up and woo a mouse by the name of Pérez.
It was a friend of mine, a woman with a keen sense of humor, who made me see this fairy-tale could be read as an allegory of everyday Cuban reality, for Cubans, needing much but having little to buy with, always have to ask themselves the question: “what will I buy with this (measly) coin?”
And it’s true: all of us in Cuba, at one point, behave like Martina the Cockroach.