Pennies wise

January 31, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Patricia and I went to Cuba earlier this month. Rather early into the winter when there is still so much more winter to come and, now, with no break from it to look forward to (probably, unless we lose our minds and go back anyway), I admit it but it was very inexpensive to go and all those other excuses.

It is very nice to be there.

We have been to Cuba lots of times now and, really, I suppose, we should be spending our money and our precious time going to different places, where we’ve never been or haven’t been for a long time and want to see again – and we will. However, like so many other people, we keep going back to the same tiny corner of the world, to a resort that is only just over three stars but, somehow, brings us all back over and over. Some people have been there dozens of times; some go and stay there for several weeks or even months.

There is a lot of talk about “minimalizing” these days and this is a perfect time to talk about Cuba and how people live there. 

Many people who go, talk endlessly about the poverty there, about the fact that people, as a design by the government, get paid the same as each other: a doctor doesn’t earn more than a waitress. We all take clothing, shoes and things: school supplies, toiletries to people we meet there. 

Some people even become really involved with families: a lady was godmother to the son of one such; another gentleman was building a house; they buy groceries and go to homes for meals and friendship. All of which is great. 

The Cubans are lovely, funny, appreciative for all anyone does for them and, in many ways, they do regret the minimal level of their materialistic lives.

Yet and yet. They can live in simple homes because there is no winter. Every home has a garden, good to grow 12 months of the year; the island is basically organic because they don’t bring in pesticides, sprays or strange fertilizers.

Their government provides their necessities with food coupons; their dental and medical needs are always free; they can climb to a PhD if a student is willing to work and is ambitious.

Cuban doctors are valued for their wisdom and innovative approach to medicine, not based on heavy pharmaceuticals. Looking for healing, not merely dealing with symptoms. They are valued around the world.

Anyone wanting to really understand Cuba should watch The Godfather II. When people go to Cuba, they should be sure to take a couple of tours that discuss the history of the country.

In the 1950’s, the rebels – a rag-tag movement – ousted the Americans. In today’s Cuba, it is the glorious revolution that freed Cuba from domination. The year Fidel Castro died, we went there and took a tour of Santiago de Cuba and the cemetery where Fidel is buried. As a journalist, I asked our guide how she felt about him.

“He was the father of Cuba,” she told me. “Many of us have never known another leader and we loved him.” Tears stood in her eyes. 

Cuba will never allow the return of the imbalance of the “bourgeoisie,” as they refer to the upper ranks of the wealthy, like the Americans who built their mansions in the streets of the cities. These were subsequently taken by the new revolutionary government and turned in schools, offices and establishments that care for disabled children.

Not doctors, lawyers, businessmen – none of them will come to consider themselves above the common lot by  virtue of an education that is given to them; an education they received to help others.

Entrepreneurship is now permitted in small measure; tourist accommodation within private homes and even a type of home restaurant; buying and selling is more open than it was but this will be watched, no doubt, to curb the rise and corruption of serious wealth.

Personally, what I love is the restrictions on the internet, that greatest of modern corruption. The access to the internet at the resort is paid for by the hour but it takes a long time to get there, as it were. People looking at their cell phones were looking at the photos they had taken, not updating their Facebook. They were stuck with talking to each other…

I tell Cubans not to grieve for it. Not to wish their lives so different. 

Look around at our top-heavy cities, the pounding of the internet, the crisis of debt that follows the hammering and pressure of omnipresent advertising, the punishment of consumerism against which the call to “reduce!” is a tiny whisper. The ironclad avarice, crushing all beneath it, with mindless disregard for everything, save the scramble to acquire wealth.

And tell me we are so much better off…

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