Time Passes By and Cuba’s Anonymous Elderly

By Harold Cardenas*  (jovencuba.com)

The other side to retirement.  Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVANA TIMES — Nelson barely gets by and not many people know it. He doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. For years he’s been passing daily in front of my apartment with his wife and they go up the building stairwell in silence. I don’t know how old he is or if he has any other relatives, I don’t know anything except for the fact that he is living in a very precarious situation.

He most probably followed all the rules, decades of doing everything he was expected to do, but even still it wasn’t enough. Once you reach retirement, the total of a whole life worked comes down to a couple hundred pesos per month [10 USD], and he doesn’t even complain about it.

His story is just one of many. For those who have other income sources, it’s difficult to understand that there are still people in Cuba who only live off of their salaries or pensions. Those who decide the fate of the people, in any political system, don’t have everyday struggles. Nelson, rather than living, survives.

He is well-educated, he was an electrical engineer and if he had lived in another country, he would surely have had another life, but this was the life he got. He calculates everything and it’s not because he likes math, but rather because he has to plan out his finances down to the last cent. He studies the calorie intake a person should have in a day, not out of curiosity but so that neither him nor his wife gets sick.

In Cuba, many of us assume that everyone has at least their basic needs covered, and it’s not like that. For eight years, I have lived near them and didn’t know anything about their situation, ashamedly.

I lacked the much needed sensitivity to realize what was going on, until a friend told me. This friend has very different political views from me and nevertheless, he picks up on things like this.

Life is a lot richer than our prejudices and personal values don’t cling to ideologies.

This post will be published, there will be several comments on the subject and then tomorrow everything will carry on the way it is. This elderly couple will continue living in their dignified poverty (if there is such a thing) until this country overcomes its ghosts which affect it both here and abroad. I am afraid that those who are just about getting by don’t have much time left.

*Translation by Havana Times

9 thoughts on “Time Passes By and Cuba’s Anonymous Elderly

  • Decrepit or not, $10 per month is not enough money to live on.

  • Excellent reply, Dan. Facts are the best way to confront Moses Patterson’s usual practice of cherry picking & hyperbole. The current price of decent men’s leather shoes appears to be $ 52.50: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Cuba
    Unfortunately, that is still much too expensive for Nelson to be able to buy a pair, which will probably please Moses Patterson …

  • No, they all live in houses, decrepit as they might be, not cars and sidewalks.

  • Hahaha. Do your math dude. Even with a $1 roof over your head, $10 per month ain’t enough. People don’t have enough money to own cars in Cuba.

  • A roof over your head in the US $800 to 2000 per month. In Cuba – maybe a dollar.
    I encounter a not insignificant number of people living in their cars – even in winter.

  • While this is sad that they don’t have their basic needs, you might be surprised to hear that there are thousands of people in the U.S. whose basic daily needs are not met as well.

    Alas, poverty exists everywhere in the world, even in the most advanced countries. And when you look at other factors in society, you might realize that it is not a bed of roses elsewhere. The most economically advanced countries in the world also have the highest rates of drug addiction and suicide rates. Why?

    Ironically, we often see some of the most successful people in society are the ones who end up dead from a drug overdose. It puzzles me that even with great financial success, people end up being covertly addicted to drugs or other self destructive activity.

    This is evident from ALL those who flee their beloved homelands to make out to the promise land (or so they think). But once they get a foot hold out here, they too become one of may millions whom are barely able to survive and fall into the same dilemma as the rest of society in the the so called “promise land.”

    Life is a struggle to survive no matter where you liver or what economic background you are born into.

    I think this is perhaps just the nature of the beast. Perhaps that is why there is Heaven and Earth. May God save us all.

  • Not true. You really don’t understand how little $10 per month is. A pair of decent shoes for an elderly person in the US cost $100. The same or comparable pair of shoes in Cuba? $150. An elderly person on Social Security in the US? $1100 per month. In Cuba? $10 per month. It’s not the same story.

  • Same story in North America too.

  • Sad story. Even sadder when you realize that there are MILLIONS of people living in Cuba just like Nelson does.

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