Layoffs and Farewells / Yoani Sánchez

She was an attorney at a business in Camagüey until the Day of the Magi, when her gift was a layoff notice. Disheartened, she took home her plastic drinking cup and the small-leafed plant that adorned her desk. At first, she didn’t know how to tell her husband she was no longer employed, nor how to call her parents and tell them their “little girl” had been left aside in the new reorganization of the workforce. She endured and remained silent while eating dinner, as the national news spoke optimistically about a new path to greater efficiency. Only when she was lying down in the dark bedroom did she tell him not to set the alarm because she didn’t have to get up early the next day. Her new life, without a job, had begun.

After cutting the workforce, the administrator at her Camagüey office hired a law firm to deal with legal matters. If before the company’s attorney had handled all the legal paperwork for only 500 Cuban pesos a month (less than 25 US dollars), now the company had to pay 2,000 pesos for the assistance of an outside institution. The arithmetic haunts the unemployed attorney because she can’t even console herself by knowing her dismissal make the company more profitable. Not only that, the most politically reliable and the director’s closest friends remained in their jobs. They managed to acquit themselves well declaring their incompetent bureaucrats, as if in reality they were directly linked to production. Thus, the Cuban Communist Party General Secretary appears now — to the eyes of possible inspectors — as if he were a lathe operator, when everyone knows he vegetates behind a desk piled high with old yellowed documents.

But the greatest anguish for this woman who has fallen into idleness is not the future of her state employer, but the direction her personal life will take. She has never done anything but fill out paperwork, write contracts, amend declarations. Her seventeen year professional life has been spent working for the government boss who, today, threw her out in the street. She knows nothing of hairdressing, nor of the manicure arts that might let her open her own beauty salon. She barely knows how to work a computer and speaks no other languages. Nor does she have the initial capital to open a coffee shop or to invest in breeding pigs. The only thing she’s good at is analyzing legal decrees and finding the loopholes in legal articles. In her case, the layoff is the end of her working life, her return to the kitchen. It is the perennial silence of the alarm that used to go off at six in the morning.

January 7, 2010