Fifty-two years ago the woman of my story was twenty-five, full of hopes and dreams. Her heritage was humble, but her family had encouraged her to study to open a path to a better future. Food, I am told, was never lacking.
When they were surprised by the sweeping social changes, she had completed her Superior education, and recently started to work at a store on Galiano street. She earned little, but as she lived in her mother’s house, her pay was enough to help her mother and give her some extras, such as: going out for a snack at the Ten Cent with her friends, buy herself a new dress for her birthday, New Year’s and perhaps the odd occasion.
One day leaving work she came across a young man and they were both looking at each other, as if possessed by a spell. She was dressed all in white, because it was summer, and he was in an olive-green uniform with a necklace of seeds hanging around his young neck.
Soon they married and without realizing it she began to identify with the ideas of her young husband and became ever more involved in revolutionary activities. It wasn’t long before their first son came along, by then her husband wasn’t wearing green and he was working as a truck driver for a company. Their two salaries together barely covered the expenses of the three of them. One day, she told me, she got up very early and surprised her husband hastily packing a suitcase: he was thinking of leaving the country in a boat and had left a note on the fridge. How every much she begged and burst into tears, he didn’t listen, he’d decided. “I can’t take it any more!” he said.
She was left alone with her son, part of her family had already left, and many of her friends as well. She never decided to do it: she still believed that at least her son would have a better future. And she didn’t want to leave her mother behind and she loved this land.
She worked a lot of suffered many shortages, as she never heard again of the man she had loved, she was driven forward by her son and he managed to study and even got a university degree. Years later, he also left, looking for new opportunities and because he was tired — he said — of so many hardships.
So now, at seventy-seven, this poor woman goes out and stands at the entrances to the agro-markets, to sell some large bags (shopping bags) that she makes herself from recycled materials, as her meager retirement is barely enough to survive, and although her son sends her a little help now and again, he also has a family to support and doesn’t earn much. “To think I worked and sacrificed so much for a better future, and it has never come, at least not for me!”
August 10 2011