What Point Have We Gotten To…

Warhol P.

Woman selling homemade candy. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 15 — For Cubans, anything that comes from abroad is well received. It doesn’t matter if it’s an elastic band for one’s hair, a plastic shaving razor, cheap costume jewelry or second hand clothes.

The worst part is that when a relative comes on a visit to the island with these kinds of things, then the problems begin.

If it’s a big family, everything’s even more complicated, because most people here have a lot of needs to be addressed.

Recently my cousin came from Spain. On the day she arrived in Havana, most of my family was there waiting for her. Everyone was anxious to see her, but more than wanting to give her a big warm hug, they were waiting for the booty.

When we all got home she pulled out her duffel bag, which she left in the front room. Even before opening it, some of the family members were already aware of what the recently arrived guest would do with the load.

When one takes a trip they almost always arrive tired, which is why my cousin left her suitcase open so that each person could choose their gift.

With the contents spread out over a bed, everyone served themselves at their pleasure. There was a wide range of items: underwear, plastic glasses, boxes of matches, a couple toy telephones, hand mirrors for women, kitchen cloths, sponges, perfume samplers, make-up, candy bars and so on.

But after the parceling out came the wrangling, because one person had taken more than somebody else and another person had picked up the plastic watch that wasn’t for them.

Then the arguing ensued because so-and-so had grabbed an extra cloth bag and there was only one bag for each aunt, and this person over here had absconded with some bars of soap that were for a relative who lives out in the country, etc., etc…

This all left me pensive. I felt sad to see what point we’ve gotten to and what we might become: simply miserable.

On several occasions I’ve received gifts that were no more than dirty, beat-up clothes. I had to sew and wash them to finally feel satisfied, because at least I had a little something else to wear to get me through the week.

How is it possible that we have to settle for so little? Why do we have to live like this? – having to depend on someone who comes from someplace else with trash. Why can’t a worker have what they want — what they need — in their country? Why do we have to end up with family members bumping heads over knick-knacks?

But there is a reality, one that’s both hard and real: The great majority of people here don’t even have the chance to spend money on trinkets much less decent clothing; if they have a little bit of money, it’s necessary to think about one thing: food.

Life is difficult; especially if you consider that a Cuban’s salary is miniscule (the average is under 20 USD a month).

Many of us want some relative or friend who lives overseas to solve our problems, but we forget that they have their own problems where they live, that they often make sacrifices without us knowing it so that once or twice a year they can somehow help those who are on this side – where they’re always warmly received with open arms.

5 thoughts on “What Point Have We Gotten To…

  • agreed. it was the same for my family when they used to go back to southern italy……anything that we could bring relatives would take………..but the difference with developping countries is that the people have a choice to save money, work together, immigrate, etc…….. cubans don’t have this choice.

  • I met a wonderful friend on my recent trip to Santa Clara. I left her as much stuff as i could and she was very grateful for it……clothes, shampoo, batteries, etc.

    I couldn’t believe how much Cubans have to struggle to have basic things. It felt as though i was in another world. I come from an immigrant family that struggled, but i always had food and clothes and that was enough for me. I never wanted the big house or the fancy car, even though that’s what we see in Canada a little bit everywhere. But you also see the sacrifices of students working while studying to pay tuition, or to put some money away for the future. You also see young families decdiding to have a stya at home mom so and the dad workin night and day in order to have the simple home and food.

    if i could, i would send everything possible to my new Cuban friend……….but Warhol is right…………Cubans are hard working people that should be able to simply work, save there money and buy the essetials just like the rest of the world and they shouldn’t have hope on others to solve their problems.

    A beautiful country, with beautiful people….and so much potential, but sometimes there’s things that just can’t be controlled.

  • As one who has spent some time in the neighboring island country of Jamaica I can say that the experience of those who have the money and time to visit the U.S. or other rich countries and then return to Jamaica is exactly the same as the person in the article above. Everyone expects that anyone who can afford air fare can certainly afford to bring them back underwear, shoes, a juicer or certainly money to enable them to buy the things they normally could not afford.
    I do not imagine it is any different in any developing country.
    Certainly remittances keep millions of people in necessities all around the world.

    I am not going to miss this opportunity to say that Cuba, alone among nations, is the only one that has had the U.S. waging an economic war against it for some 50 years for the express purpose of making the Cuban people suffer to the point they will go back to capitalism.

  • This post makes me very sad – and the comment by Mark Williams does not help to lift my spirits. I think the article writer is primarily referring to what people in many countries consider “basic necessities” – razors, toiletries and clothing – not “luxuries.” Living simply is a good option, if it is one’s choice. Struggling to survive is quite a different matter.

    Happiness does not come from possessions, of course. However, having a few things that will make life a little easier should be an affordable option. People should not have to give up food in order to have underwear! Health and love are certainly good building blocks for a happy life but wanting basic items is not the same as falling prey to consumerism.

    I wish you both well.

  • To live a good life, we need just our health and plenty of love. I am someone who has had everything, and it was never enough. There is always something newer or something better, and once you are on the consumerism treadmill, it’s very hard to get off. Here in the UK, people actually judge their friends by what they possess.
    Believe me, as someone who has lived this life, the desire for more possessions brings misery, not happiness. It’s fine to want for just a little more comfort or a gift of which you have dreamed. But there have been points in my life when I would have given everything I owned for true happiness.

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