Santiago de Cuba: How critical are Cubans?

The heat was killing me. It was quite early and I was sitting in the sun and the sun burned on my skin. I was sitting in a park and two drunk men were energetically dancing around, one was playing the violin (horribly, probably because of the alcohol) and they were singing and dancing around and trying to engage with people.
In the morning I had already done a little excursion to the Viazul in order to buy the ticket to my next destination: Baracoa. The trip to the bus station with the bici taxi was really interesting. It was 28 December and it seemed like the whole city had already started the preparations for New Year’s eve. This means that Santiago was like a butcher shop. We crossed a little poorer neighbourhood and there was meat everywhere. Whole pigs laying around on the streets and people cut them into pieces, I saw two men on bikes both holding a stick- with a dead pig hanging on the stick. Although I don’t eat meat I don’t mind watching dead animals, I found it quite funny.
Anyways, the heat. Oh Santiago. I ended up in a cafe again, and this time it was really interesting.
Some people on the table next to mine started talking to me- I had black coffee without milk or sugar and they asked me how I could drink that.
Cubans throw tons of sugar in everything- juice, coffee, ice cream, sweets, EVERYTHING. But I don’t really like it.
Anyways, we started talking, and of course, the voice inside of me pushed the conversation in a political direction again.
And they started! Lively, completely critical, and it was like as if they couldn’t stop!
The most active guy said the following

”I don’t believe in change. Cuba cannot and it will not change. Ever. A normal Cuban makes about $10 US per month, the minimum wage is $9US. There is extreme poverty in Cuba. You might not be able to see it, and actually also we don’t see it, but we know that it’s there. An extremely poor person in Mexico for example has to live on the streets, whereas an extremely poor Cuba might not live on the streets, but they live with their family. Cubans have a different understanding of family values as we do. If your brother is poor then it is normal to have him and your family live with you in your house. No biggie. And yes, people seem happy. Rum, music, dancing,… but this is just a little fairy tale that people create in order to hide their problems. ‘’
Three of his friends joined the conversation and also complained about the lousy economic situation. And they also talked about ‘inventar’, a thing which I had heard that often. People in Cuba have to be creative and think of solutions in order to make a living. Somehow everyone is trying to make some extra income, by being a taxi or ripping off tourists.
The only thing which they seemed to value was that there is no violence in Cuba and that the country is absolutely safe. ‘’Cuba is not like Colombia or Mexico’’

And then all of them started talking about Varadero. Tourists who are planning on travelling to Cuba always have a hard choice to make. Varadero or not? You could buy the whole package. 10 days Varadero, beach, happiness, sun and cocktails. But Varadero is not Cuba. It is a hotel paradise which attracts large numbers of Europeans and Canadians every year.
It is relatively ok price-wise.
The other option then is to see the actual country. To travel. It is harder. It is more expensive. But it is real Cuba.
But the guys in the café were absolutely positive about Varadero. It seems to be the dream of every Cuban to spend their holidays there. And those guys wouldn’t mind if the whole country would turn into Varadero.

But how funny again. I thought it would be hard to have a critical conversation with Cubans. But no, they are absolutely critical and they are not afraid to speak out. Even the waiters joined in to our conversation and it was really nice. But maybe they also knew each other well and were sure that no one of them would report them to their local CDR (Comite de la defensia de la revolucion).
Those guys in this bar though were about 30 years old. A new generation of Cubans.


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