Earning One’s Living / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo by Luis Felipe Rojas

It is an outrageous race, a trip which has no other alternative than to return home with a lump of bread, a bottle of soda, or whatever bit of money to at least go to bed with some dignity. In this Eastern area of Cuba fortune tellers, herb specialists, and women who clean-iron-cook have swarmed up once again, all for the sake of getting a plate of food or making ten pesos in national currency. Plumbers, lawn cleaners, and stove repairmen- professions that are normal- are also abundant. But there have also flourished those who purchase gold watches, silversmiths, and those who specialize in knocking down coconuts from trees. In cities like Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, neighbors who work in the Immigration offices and who are seeking a bit of money even offer to fill out the countless forms which the countries’ bureaucracy requires be submitted with no errors.

Two of the best cellphone technicians I know are not older than thirty. A young woman, contemporary in age with them, has a very long line outside her house every day: all those people want to get their computers out of hell, wake the motherboard, speed up its operating velocity, or change the internal modem. Being a technician who has not yet graduated, she tries to assist them and earn her living. For some time now in my neighborhood, there is also a young girl going around offering pedicures. Discrete, clean, and with wholesome values, she assured me that she could only tend to three clients every morning, for there are many elderly people who request her services. In the afternoon she receives English lessons and at night she helps out women who work during the day.

Musicians, spiritualists, leather workers, dollar traffickers, tobacco makers, and aged rum specialists. These are some of the services which dodge state inspections. They are a mass of men and women who walk in silence off to their first job of the day, the first hard currency which weighs in their pocket and which assures them a piece of bread, a soap, a pound of pork meat. They are an army which cannot be detained by walls, absurd prohibitions, or mental barbed wires.

Translated by: Raul G.

14 August 2011