The Marginalized from the Slums

Night is his best ally. Pedro, an unemployed 21 year old knows how to take advantage of it like no one can. He lives in a hut made of aluminum and grimy boards, along with his four brothers and his mother, who likes to drink herself into unconsciousness with filtered alcohol made from molasses.

Pedro’s entire family escaped from a hamlet in a municipality of Guantanamo, a province 1,000 km east of Havana. His entire life, he recalls, they have eaten very little and inadequately, and have drunk rum excessively. And money? Forget it.

“Those little papers with people painted on them, we have always lacked them in our pockets,” he confesses.

They arrived in Havana a couple of years ago and built their dwelling in the outskirts of the city, bordering the national highway. Typical local slums with hovels called “Ready Mades,” populated by squalid persons, generally black and mestizo, without future. Like Pedro’s family, they raise a roof in a jiffy in order to have a place to sleep.

In the capital, Pedro’s family manages however they can. Pedro’s mother, Emelina, armed with her plastic bottle filled with homemade rum, sells plastic bags for one peso as well as butter or cream cheese made in the country side, discreetly peddled near a bakery.

“At the end of the day, I earn 30 to 40 pesos only,” says Emelina, who has a large double chin and, although she says she is 48 years old, looks more like she is almost 70.

The rest of her children, a girl and three boys, barely completed high school. Martiza, 17 years old, a prostitute, usually stands with her hand out attracting clients traveling in cars moving at more than 100 kph on the national highway. If anyone, attracted by her slender body and provocative tits, slows down, she negotiates. Forty pesos for a blow-job and 80 to be penetrated.

She dreams of another life. Eat a hot meal every day, a good, decent husband who will provide a good life. While she waits for her break, she goes out every night to “make do.”

“I am a whore so I don’t starve to death,” she says in a soft voice; meanwhile, distracted, she gazes at her long finger nails, decorated with the American flag.

The two other brothers are somewhat withdrawn, but they are hard workers. They climb as high as 20 meters to lop off the fronds of the royal palm—these are highly prized in the farmhouses of Havana’s suburbs.

“Sometimes he earns up to 500 pesos (20 dollars),” fusses his mother.

This is a lot of money for them. Pedro is the thief. He takes advantage of the dark of night to steal from a State refrigerator with some friends. They enter through the roof of the establishment to steal boxes of frozen chicken or boxes of potatoes.

With the proceeds of his thievery, Pedro buys designer clothes and Nikes. His mother is unaware of his misdeeds.

“I would like to get out of poverty and have a cement-block house that stays dry inside when it rains. Be able to go to clubs and drink good beer.”

That is why, on a moonless night near the national highway, Pedro knows the darkness will help in his attempts to change his destiny. He has yet to land in jail, but this is in the cards.