Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

February 07, 1999.


HAVANA - I am not young any more. Yet I still would like to dress one day with a coordinated skirt and blouse, and matching shoes and bag. Like when I was a young "chick" and my parents would buy me clothes to wear on May 20, the anniversary of Cuba's Independence from Spain. (It is not even really celebrated by the current regime.

All that was before. Before "the man" came to power, people would dress with new clothes and shoes and would go to the town's plaza. While waiting for the orchestra to start playing one would go round and round the plaza. Some times only the women would walk, and the men would stand by and compliment us.

Now, other than watching soap operas, what I enjoy the most are those magazines abounding with colored pictures like "Ola" from Spain. When I see the rich people's mansions from abroad, I feel in seventh heaven. That is why I look at them when the daily house chores allow me a few minutes off.

At times I am able to look at them while in the bathroom. I close my eyes and imagine that I live there, in that large house with a swimming pool and servants. I imagine not having to worry about daily meal "improvisation."

It is not easy to cook when there is nothing to cook, not even seasoning! I still do not understand why socialism - at least Cuba's variety - causes a money phobia. Because to be rich must be "great." One is well dressed, with comfortable shoes and without having to stand in line to get into a bus which is always full. And in the summer, God save us! It is unbearable. Every one piles into a "camel" (so named because two bodies of two buses are scrunched up together and pulled by one tractor).

And even if one bathes daily and uses deodorant and cheap cologne, the body still must sweat, and one is unable to prevent body odor.

I know about today's capitalism only from magazines and movies. Honestly, from what I gather, I like it better than socialism. In the past 63 years of my life, what I have experimented about socialism are wants and needs. We have the rationing cards, long lines, lack of paint, dirty streets, falling houses, buildings in need of repair, delapidated schools, and poorly dressed and inadequately fed people.

On the other hand, it appears that in capitalism, many things are pretty, clean and modern. In Cuba since everything that is good is bought with dollars, many businesses are well lit and kept. One can find movie-like cafeterias, painted with bright colors and with employees in showy uniforms.

I only know one "shopping," or U.S. dollar store, the one which is near my home. That is where I have been assigned to go whenever I have "verdes" (greenbacks) so as to buy cooking oil, detergent, soap, shampoo and deodorant.

I am lucky that I still have clothes from capitalism, dating from when my mother went to Miami in 1959. I believe with these rags I can manage till I die. They are not in vogue, but they are clean and still holding together.

Emilia, my close neighbor, says that when she gets her visa to the United States she will bring me several dress changes so I can throw away all those old and ugly clothes.

I look at her, smile and keep my thoughts to myself. But when I go to church on Sunday, I ask the Lord to help my neighbor Emilia get her visa.

Back when my mother brought the clothes from Miami - those were the times! Now Everything has changed, not just the material things.

We did used to have such bad manners or envy. Now evil eyes are the norm. The dollar has divided the Cubans.

Those in the government clique still spend most of their time attacking "imperialism," the Yankees, the embargo (which they call blockade) and globalization, all with the same singsong as that of the Foreign Debt. But what I see is that all the time there is more difference between the systems.

New classes have emerged here. For example the managers live very well while many people and especially the elderly are having a rough time.

I do not want anything to do with politics. My grandfather used to say that politics are dirty. Because politicians fight one day and kiss the next.

That is why I like soap operas and magazines. A well traveled friend of mine told me that the magazines that I like are called "of the heart." For some reason I was embarrassed and did not ask why. But I am not aware of any "cardiology matters" in them.

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press

P.O. Box 652035
Miami, FL 33265-2035
Copyright © 1999 - Cuba Free Press, Inc.