Work and Migration / Dimas Castellanos

(Published in Laborem. The Voice of the Christian Workers’ Movement / Cuba. Vol. 9, No. 36, July-September, 2010)

Work and migration are closely linked. If the former radiates the riches that sustain the material and spiritual life of man, the second serves to rearrange things when work is incapable of guaranteeing the preservation and development of life. With respect to the church, there are a number of documents that are required reading, among which the following encyclicals stand out.

The Rerum Novarum (1891) of Pope Leon XIII contains valuable reflections on the redistribution of the product of social work by means of a salary. The Pacem en Terris (1963) of Pope John XXIII proposes that the church must share man’s historical adventure. The Populorum Progressio (1967) of Paul VI approaches poverty from the point of view of justice and recognizes that the church must help overcome these problems. The Laborem Exercens (1981) of John Paul II says that the justice of a socio-economic system and its just functioning deserve to be valued according to the way in which human work is remunerated, that fair remuneration is the key problem of social ethics and that a fair salary is that which permits one to start and honorably support a family and ensure its future. From these proposals one can deduce that a salary is an important indicator of social justice, and that it shows if the economy is or is not in the service of man. The four encyclicals mentioned demonstrate the preferred option in favor of the poor as a basic element.

In Cuba, the lack of connection between income and the cost of living made a salary no longer the principal source of income, with terrible consequences for the economy, for spiritual life and for social relations in general. Contrary to this, official statistics gave out one of the lowest unemployment rates in the universe, while thousands of Cubans of employment age escaped from the country in search of better living conditions. This happened even when it had not been recognized that there were over a million excess workers.

Without human migration our makeup as a people cannot be explained. From the first inhabitants who arrive from the arc of the Antilles to the first half of the XX century, our country has been characterized by immigration. That trend took a 180 degree turn in the second half of the century. Our emigration, in contrast to the massive exoduses in other parts of the world, is a sustained and growing process that began in 1959, continued with Operation Peter Pan, with the departures through the ports of Camarioca, Mariel and the Guantanamo Naval Base and has continued in different forms that go from navigating an inner tube to abandoning a foreign mission, a phenomenon sharpened by the lack of any right to freely enter and leave the country.

The duration of this phenomenon, the sociological diversity of the emigrants and the damage to the nation are sufficient reasons to understand that the fundamental cause of this situation lies in the inability of the current model to satisfy the needs of the population. For this reason, the individual must be made the end and not the means, implying that salaries and property must be restructured, and civil rights implemented as well.

Repeating the words of Jose Marti: May all who want the nation to prosper help to establish things in the country so that every man may work in an active job that contributes to his personal independence.

Spanish post
January 20 2011