2015 could be a different year for Cubans / Ivan Garcia

Havana Street

Although Yaumara, a psychologist, spent three nights in line at the food fair in the municipality of 10 de Octubre, to see if she could buy a small turkey for 170 Cuban pesos (eight dollars) for her end of year dinner, she expects great things from 2015

Amid the bustle of street vendors, portable canvas stalls selling pork sandwiches, toilet paper or paint, surrounded by rusted shelves with sweet potatoes, yuca and other tubers, and a floor of red earth, Yaumara does not lose faith in her ability to buy a turkey and to celebrate the New Year with her family.

“If we didn’t have this market, I couldn’t buy a turkey. In the hard currency stores a frozen turkey costs between 42 and 55 CUC (44 and 60 dollars), which represents two and a half months of my wages. I’m optimistic, I think things are going to change for the better in 2015. It can’t get any worse.”

Among several ordinary Cubans consulted, no one could offer a coherent narrative for why the next 12 months will be different. Perhaps a conditioned reflex. A hunch.

A fat and sweaty truckdriver, shirtless and sitting on his vehicle’s fender offered a clue. “In 2015 things change or we’re fucked. I believe that what happened on December 17 is the certification of the death of the revolution. I don’t know how the pieces fit into place. But Socialism and the New Man are on their way to the cemetery. Capitalism arrived, sneakily, and administered by the usual suspects. In the coming year important things will happen,” he predicts. He takes a sip of Mayabe beer and bets 20 CUC with a friend, that his premonition will come true.

The majority of Cubans are overflowing with optimism. Unlike December 2013, the principal topic of conversation is not the unattainable pork, at 35 pesos a pound, the Spanish nougat at 3.50 and four CUC, and a bottle of red wine costing of week’s wages.

According to Anselmo, retired military, “We are heading to democracy. I don’t know what the road will be. But Raul Castro is the undertaker of a system that didn’t work. There will be no more disproportionate army and spending so much money on the defense of the country for a supposed threat from the United States. The day after the door opens, I promise you they will not be able to close it.”

Nancy, economist, draws the future in her mind. “The coming year they are going to unify the two currencies. 90% of the service units (government enterprises) will become private sector or cooperatives. According to the level of foreign investments, a portion of the workers will receive six times their current salary. It’s still not perfect, But what matters is that we are starting to move. The stage of everything being a disaster and blaming all the economic failures on the Yankee blockade (embargo) is over.”

Despite the expectations, many Havanans continue working on the paperwork for their final departure from the country. Even more urgently than before. Sergio, self-employed, is one of them. “In 2015 Obama can repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act. Then we are going to be up the creek without a paddle. If it is the will of the government on the island, things can get better. But I prefer to be on the other side looking back at the scene. If the Cuban reality changes and there are options created to progress, I will return. I hope that the regime will change some of the immigration laws. And that we will never lose our status as Cubans.”

Evening falls in Havana. And the movement of people buying gifts, drinks and food to celebrate 2015 with their families continues. It has always been this way

What’s new is that for the first time, the new year could bring a positive turn to their lives. You can judge it according to how you see it. For some the glass is half empty. For others half-full.

The sensation that is palpable when you walk through the city and talk with people is that hope has returned.

Iván García