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