This is a series I’m starting about growing up in Cuba.
Now that I have kids, I understand how heartbreaking it can be to not be able to give them something they really want. Does my daughter really need another stuffed animal? No, she has over 20 stuffed animals she sleeps with in her bed, but sometimes it breaks my heart to say no.
Maybe it has something to do with where I came from. By any standards, me and my wife are poor. I make just enough to pay rent, while my wife’s photography business fluctuates between really awesome, to really poor months. That’s the nature of the business. (By the way, if anyone is hiring a graphic designer, video editor, copy editor, or public relations person, let me know. Just some of the many creative hats I can wear.)
There are some tough months, lots of them. Months where we just make it by God’s grace. And not for lack of trying. Now that I have my degree, I have applied to at least 30 jobs in the past three weeks. I’ve gotten about three or four rejections, but no interview calls from the rest.
And yet, despite our current situation, I’ve come from worse. From much worse.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but if I had to guess, I was around eight years old when I began collecting discarded candy wrappers.
I wasn’t the only one. This was a thing, a huge thing in my school and probably with most kids in Havana. Instead of baseball cards (never even saw one of those in Cuba), we collected and traded candy wrappers we found on the street.
That’s the real cruelty in all of this. We didn’t even get to enjoy the candy. We couldn’t afford to buy Skittles or anything else, so like all other kids in my school, I would keep my eyes peel to the street for the wrappers.
I would pick them up and smell them because the ones with the freshest smell were the most “valuable” ones. You could trade a “fresh” one for another one with cool colors and whatnot. I realize now how unsanitary and insane that was, but that’s what we had. I had hundreds of candy wrappers and so did my friends. I would find the best ones in places where a lot of tourists would visit. So yes, littering tourists helped Cuban kids grow their peculiar collection.
I haven’t asked my mom, but I’m sure that it couldn’t have been easy to watch your kid collect another person’s trash (literally) and see that as a valuable thing. However, as a kid, it didn’t seem that weird. But if my kids were the ones doing that, not only would I be heartbroken, but I would be so angry at the government that has kept Cubans as second class citizens in their own country for almost 60 years.
Ignorant people say, “oh, let’s visit Cuba now before American capitalism destroys it.” Let me tell you something, the imported Russian communism hasn’t been any good to us.
I’m still apprehensive about all of these changes because it’s not a sure thing that democracy will follow all of this American influx of cash. The one thing that is for sure is that the same cowards that have ruled Cuba for 56 yeas will be getting a lot of money and that can’t be good.
If President Obama really wants to help and cares about Cubans (and not about his legacy), then only make these changes by demanding that the Castro’s hold free and open elections. Wasn’t he the president who ran on change after all?