Monthly Archives: May 2010

Saving More, We Have Less

From my earliest memories my parents have been “saving,” a recent college graduate tells me. The first savings I can remember were for toys, he continues, then for shoes, then for a backpack for the beginning of school each year. So I’ve spent my life. With the money saved by my family in Miami, which they send to us with great sacrifice, and which we, on receiving it, save by spending less on food, less on clothes, fewer outings. With it we bought an air conditioner and a color TV, which in Cuba is not considered a luxury but a necessity. Also with sacrifice, putting away a little bit of everything, we got something that is also not ostentatious but a necessity required for every professional, he continued. The only luxury we’ve allowed ourselves is to buy the least expensive stereo. Now, that I’ve started to earn a meager salary and I want to come home from work and sit in front of my air conditioner and listen to a little good Cuban music, now they tell me I have to save and the blackouts are returning.

The young man doesn’t care what I think, he just needs to vent. I serve as a kind of priest who will then absolve him from his political sins against the system.

How long do I have to keep on hearing the word “save”? I shrug my shoulders: no one knows, I tell him. We have spent our lives counting the pennies, cutting back on the kilowatts, living in shadows for the sake of austerity. My childhood was spent in the Special Period. I believe that for Cubans, misery hasn’t taken any vacations. I am a recent graduate and will have to continue counting on my family abroad to keep me.

While we are talking some neighbors knock on the door of his house to have a look at how much energy he is consuming. The young man looks at me and grits his teeth. The motto is: save today to enjoy tomorrow, say the little old ladies.

How long do we have to wait until that so often mentioned morning comes? my host asks me. Since 1959 they have been encouraging us with that morning to come. My grandfather never saw that morning. My father will never see it either. And from the way things are going I, too, will never get to see it. What I do know for sure is if I have a child it will not be born in this country. I cannot subject it to that harm.

I will conceive it when that morning to come is guaranteed.