The Boys in Vermilion / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The remainder of the year threatens to be a difficult time for them.  Very soon they will no longer be among the ranks of what once was one of Fidel Castro’s most promoted projects: the social workers program.  At first, many people mistrusted them as they were used to sniff out Cuban homes under the pretext of carrying out a national census which demanded information of who received financial assistance from abroad, who had a computer, and who could repair a cell phone.  But the spoiled kids of the revolution, those who one night replaced all public vendors in Cuban gas stations, grew far too arrogant and walked down our streets with an insolence rarely allowed for a social group of that age.  From one day to the next, after selling some Chinese televisions, refrigerators, or fans, they stopped trying to look like what they never were: workers, and only carried the label of socials.

One morning, they started to wear name-brand chains and rings, athletic shoes, and all the other knick-knacks which their bad taste allowed them.  A considerable number of them were able to take advantage of the privileges of being able to attend the university and graduate without much rigor.  However, many others saw this opportunity snatched away from them due to the fact that they were on “missions” outside of their hometown, perched aboard a sugar cane truck, or a bus which traveled throughout the country from Havana to Guantanamo, or supervising the comings and goings of cooking oil from one grocery store to another.

Though their splendor began to fade slowly, until very recently they were in charge of recommending someone to a labor center, a scholarship, or they managed a water tank for a specified community.  Now they are in shambles and some gave in and asked to be let go so they could work for themselves as drivers or carpenters, or go to work for the Interior Ministry.  In a few weeks, two months at most, the government will reduce their ranks by 80%, according to what they have been informed during recent meetings.

We will then see them returning home, with the red on their shirts fading more and more each time, and without that slogan which they once carried like rifles slung on their backs: “more Cuban, more human”.

Translated by Raul G.

12 October 2011