Cubans Without ‘Family in the Exterior’ Survive by Reselling on the Streets

Galiano Street, in Central Havana, has become a showcase for misery

An old woman has half a dozen disposable razors for sale, some that are also ’discarded’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 23 April 2024 — Cubans who emigrate to Miami have an expression for those who remain on the Island, those whom they support with their remittances: “Cubans with faith.” The word “faith” in Spanish is “fe,” which stands for “family in the exterior,” meaning relatives abroad. Eduardo, who left the country three years ago on the “route of the volcanoes” (through Nicaragua), doesn’t understand how “those who don’t have fe” can survive.

“Every week I have more and more acquaintances in Cuba asking me to send them money, because they don’t have children who can send them some. But I can’t handle everyone; I have children there too,” says this 40-year-old from Havana. “Distant relatives write my mom to ask for my help, as if I were a millionaire. I wish I could, but I know that’s not the solution.”

Aurora was an artist in the principal theaters of Cuba and always believed in the Revolution

If she ever dares to tell those relatives to ask for “saving” in front of the Plaza de la Revolución, they call her an “anti-patriot” and a “Trumpista.” The suffering of relatives who couldn’t emigrate becomes dramatic in the case of the elderly.

Aurora was an artist in the principal theaters of Cuba and always believed in the Revolution. Today, widowed and alone, with a pension that does not reach 2,000 pesos and not a single family member who sends her money from abroad, she barely survives. Eating, although little, is not such a problem: there is always a neighbor who has a slightly more comfortable life, either because of business “on the left” or from receiving remittances, and will help with a little rice or beans or both. The biggest problem is electricity. She can’t pay the new prices, so Aurora doesn’t even turn on the lights at night: one more risk to add to her 85 years and her reduced mobility.

On a step under the arches, an old man sells cigars and rubber parts for pots and coffee makers / 14ymedio

Like him, hundreds of thousands of elderly Cubans – two and a half million over 60 years of age on the Island – are on the verge of extreme poverty. Those who don’t even have a roof over their heads sleep in the streets. Several of them take advantage of the busiest roads of the capital to resell a few items, always scarce, always of poor quality. One of them is Galiano street, in Central Havana, a true showcase of misery.

An old woman had half a dozen disposable razors for sale this Tuesday, of those that are also discarded: few people can shave with those gadgets that they sell in state shops.

Later, on a step under the arches, another old man sells cigars and rubber parts for pots and coffee makers. Others offer sweets, liquid detergent, instant soft drinks or batteries.

“It’s not just that it’s not enough for them to live on, it’s that it’s useless for them,” said a woman who helps her 80-year-old mother as much as she can and who bought, out of charity, a battery pack in Galiano on Tuesday. “It’s just that 1,500 pesos of pension in this country is nothing. And look how hungry they are, how much need and sadness.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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