Ivan Garcia, 4 July 2016 — Mayara finished ninth grade with excellent grades and the next school term she will start high school. She is thinking about going to university and getting a degree in civil engineering or architecture.
Until then, she is spending her holidays scrubbing dishes, cleaning house and helping her mother wash fifteen pounds of dirty clothes twice a week.
“I feel very bad for my daughter but I don’t have money for her to go a discotheque or a party with her friends. I cannot even afford to send her on a trip to the beach with some neighbors who have rented a bus. She’ll have to settle once again for watching television and reading books. I make 380 pesos a month (about 17 dollars) as a receptionist and that isn’t even enough to feed ourselves adequately. And I can’t rely on her father. He’s always drunk and months will pass before he gives his daughter so much as a peso,” says Mayara’s mother. Continue reading “Affordable Vacations in Cuba / Iván García”
Iván García , 22 June 2016 — The park at Galiano and San Rafael is a beehive of activity. At one end, several teenagers play soccer, using a school desk as the goal, while 50 men and women are connecting to the Internet, sitting on wooden benches or the ground.
Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.
Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.
Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].
Iván García, 11 July 2016 — Fernando, owner of a private business to the east of Havana, bought his ancient black Moskvitch during the difficult years of the Special Period, when the proprietor, a national labour hero, found himself obliged to sell his cane cutting business to feed his family.
Iván García, 23 July 2016 — It was announced on Friday, July 8 that Cuba had experienced an economic recession in the first half of this year and that there would be cutbacks in fuel consumption. If the country had a stock exchange or a convertible national currency, their fall would have been dramatic.
It was a black Friday in Cuba, where there is not even a semblance of Wall Street and the local currency is nothing more than paper. Businesses and direct investments that increase GDP are scarce. Prominent businesspeople and well-known multinationals survey the scene like birds of prey yet do not dare to swoop down on their targets. Continue reading “A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García”
Iván García, 24 June 2016 — “Twenty minutes. Neither more nor less,” says Emilio, a civil engineer. This was the time he took at work to “analyze” a document replete with jargon, approved by the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, celebrated this past April in Havana.
“Imagine: The boss had authorized us to carry out a ’motivation’ for Father’s Day. We took up a collection and bought three bottles of rum and two cartons of beer. But at noon, a guy from the union showed up for a meeting with ’the agents of the municipality,’ to discuss the economic model and the future of Cuba,” comments the engineer. Continue reading “The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García”
Joel, a fifty-five-year-old engineer, remembers the summer of 1994 when, after finishing his day job, he came home to roast two or three pounds of peanuts. After packaging them in paper cones fashioned from the pages of school textbooks, he went out to sell them on the street and make a little extra money.
Iván García, 18 July 2016 — Two retirees, a strolling detergent vendor and a vacationing doctor, kill time in a park in south Havana, debating the surprising Portuguese victory of Cristiano Ronaldo in the European Cup. They also comment on the Regime’s new austerity measures, which presage another season of “skinny cows” [shortages].
Neither the shade of a carob tree nor a soft breeze relieves the sleep-inducing heat of July. When it seems that the topics of conversation are exhausted, a grey-haired man, a now-retired civil engineer, asks: “Does anyone know where the money in Cuba is going? And what the Government does with the millions of dollars it receives from family remittances?” Continue reading “Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 30 June 2016 — “Beyoncé” — that’s what she likes to be called — prostitutes herself for less than two dollars on the outskirts of the old bus stop of Víbora, 30 minutes by car from the center of Havana.
By day she’s an “emerging teacher” in a secondary school, that is one of a class of teachers created due to the shortage of experienced teachers who begin training in the 11th grade at age 16 and take over a classroom while they’re still teenagers themselves. By night she goes out to hunt clients on the Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October] roadway, dressed as a woman. She wears a blond wig, a clinging dress, high-heeled shoes, too much makeup and a cheap, penetrating perfume that she combines with an imitation-Gucci handbag and some false eyelashes imported from Miami. Continue reading “Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 13 July 2016 — The bearded Castro — famous for his long speeches, sponsorship of guerrilla groups in Latin America and Africa, and utopian promises — retired for health reasons after forty-seven years in power. But like a disembodied ghost, he is apt to reappear at any moment in Cubans’ lives.
“A few days ago I was listening to a baseball game on the radio and, like a backdrop, they were playing excerpts from Fidel’s speeches between innings.” said Renato, who sells pirated DVDs in the central Havana’s Monte neighborhood. “It’s the same on TV. There’s no money in the budget for young writers but this year book publishers are going to release twenty-five works on Fidel and his life. Brother, I’m telling you, if I could, I’d fly off to the moon.” Continue reading “Fidel Castro, All Over the Place / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 20 June 2016 — The choice facing Yolexis was simple. Either he studied teaching, or he would have to do two years in the armed forces. At the age of 18, he couldn’t think of anything worse than putting on an olive-green uniform and marching around for hours in the hot sun.
So, he decided to study to become a teacher in the east of Havana. “To be a teacher in Cuba is the last card in the deck. My parents told me that, before the triumph of the Revolution, to be a teacher was a source of pride in society. Now, to be a teacher is just shitty”, says Yolexis, who, because of the shortage of primary teachers in the capital, gives classes without proper academic training. Continue reading “Poor Quality Teaching in Cuba Leads to Expenses and Bribes / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 16 June 2016 — It was a winter morning in 1978. The director of Antonio Maceo secondary school — housed in the old Teachers’ Normal School in the Havana burough of Cerro — announced in melodramatic tones that students at the campus must prepare for an imminent attack by the United States.
His harangue went, more or less, something like this: “The imperialist enemy never ceases in its efforts to prevent us from building socialism and practicing proletarian internationalism with our brothers in Africa. Therefore, we must be prepared to defend the victories of the Revolution. Everyone, from the young to the old, must know how to fire a gun.” Continue reading “Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro’s Hysteria / Iván García”
City of Havana – One of the New7Wonder Cities of the World.
Ivan Garcia, 6 June 2016 — From Miraflores, south of Havana, Sergio comes twice a week with his wheelbarrow to the dump on Calle 100 in Marianao to pick up old junk that he later sells for a few pesos in a traveling fair in the slums of La Víbora.