Cuba is not reasonable for a regular short-term visitor. It is like a different world, not at the first, but the second view. A closer look reveals the extraordinaries but a lot of time, conversations and comparisons with the western world are required to get the clue about what is going on in this particular political, social and cultural microcosm.
The Cubans get paid equally. Engineers, gardeners, truck drivers, doctors, bank employees… earn about €/$25.00 per month in local currency (peso cubanos).
But how to survive when the electricity for your home costs already 30 bucks per month?
Some people are allowed to start little enterprises like casa particulares, small hotels for tourists, or with restaurants, called paladares. But others have no possibilities to get access to the second currency (Pesos convertibles), the tourists pay with.
They have to get the money in a different way.
People are cautious, when it comes to conversations about the political system, the disadvantages and the ways they cope with it, but if you try hard, you can find someone who gives you an insight into their secrets.
It is essential to explain that Cuba’s socialism meant originally, a single person has hardly any property, whereas the state owns everything.
If a farmer wants to establish a farm, he still has to borrow the cows from the government as they actually belong to the government. The products he manufactures are ought to be directly transferred to the government. He receives other products and the common loan in exchange. The issue is, his income is far away from being enough. So he withdraws some milk, chickens, eggs, bananas etc. beside and sells those products on the black market to get some money.
This is like everybody does. The hotel employees take food and leftovers from the hotel, the truck driver is driving in a very slow pace, to suck gas out of his government owned truck at the end of the day. The butcher takes meat and sells it anywhere else than in his store, the bus driver is overbooking his bus, what means that some people might have no seats during a bus trip of several hours – nevertheless he has gained some extra money, even if it leads to obvious inconveniences for paying travelers. Everybody tries to take advantage from his or her initial situation.
But there are still questions. What about teachers or doctors. How do they survive? I learned that people bring food and clothes to the hospital if they need a medical treatment.
The system is working but it’s hard to understand how. People seem happy in a certain way. There is kind of a Cuban happiness. They are taking every advantage they face in their jobs. For sure they are also often playing tricks on the government and this is why they get along with this system. They found a way to live with it and to survive in challenging circumstances.
But it is still very unclear how it will develop in the future.
The positive aspects of the country are the common safety, free education and medical support for all citizens. But not all of the Cubans are fully satisfied with it. Many tend to improve their personal situations. And therefore they are hoping for political reforms. But others are worried that some reforms, which are not carefully chosen might widen the already existing gap between the poor and the wealthier citizens.
So it’s not very likely that a big alteration will take place soon. Even though it’s predictable that the change in the Cuban system will go on. It’s just the question how big the impact to Cubans society will be.