Cuba’s lost generation: Money or happiness?

I had a really nice chat with a Cuban couple in Baracoa that asked me to publish our conversation anonymously.  As much as I love Cuba and their different way of challenging the dominant mainstream world order, I acknowledge that the human rights situation regarding freedom of speech is difficult there. Let’s call my conversation partners Carla and Enrique.

Carla: I am really sorry to hear about the bad experiences you made with Cuban men. But I have to tell you honestly, that tourism has done this to our country. Before the country opened up to tourists, this wasn’t the case. Tourism has made the young generation lazy. Although people here have the opportunity to study for free at university, young people rather work as taxi drivers or try to rip tourists off in order to make money. Of course, it is a shame that doctors, teachers, etc. barely make any money. But anyways, you can see what happened to young people now. Money determines people’s lives. I mean, does it really make people happy to rip tourists off as a job? Is this an honourable profession? And also, it won’t go on like this forever. It is going to change one day.

Me: What do you think about the development of the internet? Computers, smartphones, etc.?

Carla: I heard that in Europe and the United States, people don’t communicate directly with each other anymore. I am scared that this could also become the case in Cuba if the internet will become more accessible. But the young generation here is simply amazed by every single thing that tourists have. They are fascinated by tourists and desperately want to have the same things they have. But Fidel Castro was right when he said that Cuba needs tourism and that it is important but also that it needs to be controlled and that there have to be limits. And it’s the same case with the internet.

Enrique: A big problem is also that people don’t work. They don’t want to work. As for them, working is not profitable. That’s why people work very slowly often and they don’t put much effort into their work. I also think that it is awful that people who don’t work as they simply don’t want to get full support by the government.

Carla: Some people don’t understand it. Work is not about money. It also should be something that you enjoy doing since it is a considerable amount of your lifetime. I love my job. I could retire already, but I love teaching. And I will continue doing it as long as I enjoy it. But well, the older the revolution gets, the more it seems to be forgotten. Young people don’t recognize the good aspects of it anymore which really is a shame.

She takes a short break, thinks for a bit and then continues

Carla: But you know Cindy, I can also not say that everybody is like that. There are some young people studying at universities and living on campus in their student dorms and they study very hard and when they meet then they meet with their fellow students in bars on campus or in their rooms. That’s why you might not be able to see those kind of young people as they simply don’t ‘’hang out’’ in the cities. So yeah, that’s why you happen to be in touch frequently with those horrible people who try to rip off tourists.

This conversation really made me think a lot. Were they right? Definitely.As much as I love the idea of socialism, it cannot be alright that a Taxi driver or a tourist guide makes more money than a doctor or teacher. By more money I don’t mean like a couple of euros more per hour, but actually about 4-times more. What would I do if I were Cuban? What would you do? Would you rather study at university for free the things you care about and to do the profession you love despite the fact that you won’t receive a lot of money for it? Or would you rather give up the opportunity to study and work in the tourist business in order to make more money?
Again: What is more important? Money or happiness? Is money happiness? Can happiness compensate for lack of money?

What is the transition in Cuba going to cause besides ‘wealth’ and ‘growth’? What will Cuba’s new generation be like? What happens if neo-liberal capitalism will be implemented in Cuba? A little piece of philosophy on the downside of capitalism  by Emile Durkheim, beautifully explained within this youtube channel. ”Modern economies put tremendous pressure on individuals (…) How can we create new ways of belonging? How can we take pressure off the individuals and find a more correct balance between freedom and solidarity?”

Emile Durkheim: Capitalism and suicide


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