Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Surviving in Cuba

Surviving in Cuba
May 24, 2016
Verónica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — My friend recently told me that he feels like he doesn't
understand Cubans anymore, and that he feels out of place.

"I don't know if it's just me who's got it wrong", he confessed confused
"but I see so much craziness everywhere, and I ask myself why people
just accept it and why nobody reacts anymore". I tried to comfort him
saying I know other people who feel the same way, including myself.

Day after day, I see a number of events which confirm this sentiment.
Travelling on a 400 bus, I witnessed an argument between a 40-something
year old man and a teenager. The young woman was standing blocking the
back exit, even though she wasn't getting off at any of the next stops,
so the man pushed her cruelly whilst getting onto the bus.

There's no good reason to get in the way of other passengers and it's
something which has become a bad habit for young people who travel to
the beach: they take up the bus like it were their own private vehicle.

However, the man's aggressive response really astonished me, especially
when you bear in mind the fact that the young teenager could have been
his daughter. But, things got worse when a friend who was travelling
with her butted in.

"If she were a man, you wouldn't talk to her like that", she rebuked.

The man attacked her too showing signs of being ready to get physically
violent. All of this happened right next to me, and I began to say to
him: "Listen, what's wrong with you? Can't you see she's pregnant?"
Blinded with rage, he hadn't noticed this very important detail and the
young woman, also flushed with anger, began shouting: "No, fuck the
belly…!" and I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if
another man hadn't intervened taking the first man by the arm and saying
in a complicit tone: "Leave it, just leave it".

That was my second surprise because a few minutes before this happened,
I had heard the young girl talking to the teenager and say: "This is
coming out", (referring to her pregnancy), as if it were a spot or a wart.

A few days beforehand, I saw two senior people arguing in a bus without
any composure, insulting eachother like kids do: Ah, old woman, you're
so ugly… was one of the "arguments" which made the entire crowd laugh. I
remember what I was told time and time again when I was child about
respecting our elders, the age-old idea that they are "wiser and to be

Waiting in line to use the Internet service at the Alamar post office,
people were talking about the topic of internet access cards, and a
woman said that she knew "firsthand" that 500 cards were made daily but
that none of these reached us because they were first sold to resellers
for 2.15 or 2.50 CUC. That's why customers are then forced to pay 3 CUC.
And she immediately followed this up with: "This directly harms me, but
I understand, everyone has to struggle to get by".

How could I talk to her about how important it is to not keep on
destroying the poor social fabric which maintains us. Just minutes
before, a woman in the line had said to me: "I can't wait for the
internet to be freely available, can you imagine? That you could connect
at home. Why doesn't the government just do that already? We're going to
have to pay for it anyway". I answered: "Because the governmnt doesn't
want people to see websites where they can find information which
contradicts what they say". "What?" she asked. "Websites where you can
access political information". "Ah…!", she said showing she'd
understood. And she added: "But people won't do that, with how expensive
the internet will be, nobody will look up that rubbish".

I stood there thinking that this "rubbish" was the reason why we don't
have internet at home, and not to mention free or even for a reasonable
price. But how was I going to get onto such a touchy subject.

Once when I was at a cafe, an old man enthusiastically told the waitor
and other customers that the price of milk had gone down, and added with
nostalgia all over his face: "With how much I like to drink a glass of
milk in the morning…" Then his expression changed as he said
disheartened: "It's too bad that money can't be found anywhere".

I couldn't help myself and interrupted saying: "Of course, sir, because
salaries are still the fundamental problem. If anything is really going
to change, salaries need to be increased".

My comment was received by an awkward silence. Then, I remembered a sign
I'd seen sometime ago in a cafe: "Talking about the thing is
prohibited", a sentence which became recurrent because of the fear
business owners had that social unrest which spontaneously broke out
amongst their customers, could become a danger to their interests.

The concept of survival in Cuba can be summed up perfectly in a phrase I
heard from a man talking about his business: "It doesn't kill me, but it
doesn't let me live neither."

Meanwhile however, whilst there is a wide sea to throw yourself into, a
house to sell in order to pay for your illegal exit, a way to "deviate
resources", or in the worst of cases, a bottle of rum, why are we going
to talk about more sound solutions?

After all, "this place doesn't sink because it's made of cork", so we
carry on dancing and smiling which has become our stamp for export, and
what an effect it has on the tourists!

Source: Surviving in Cuba - Havana -

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