samedi 10 mars 2018


This blog would consist of two parts
First Lamento Socialista Socialist Lament by Cubans in Cuba and the second part, Lamento Capitalista Capitalist Lament by Cubans in Miami

A young medical student from Moa in the eastern part of Cuba wrote an email to inform me that the state telephone company had an offer for phone and service (SIM) for those who residing outside Cuba to buy for Cubans. (She thought it was cheap!)  120 cuc or 140 usd, that would enable a Cuban to get a line (normally valued at 40 cuc) plus a Samsung phone (while the type was not specified, I can assure you it would be the one that one can pick up in Miami for about 40 usd. So why is this excitement about something intangible for Cubans? What is the purpose behind it?
I wrote back, first of all 140 usd as a gift is not cheap (plus a moral obligation to recharge at 25 dollars per month) for most outsiders, especially Cubans who are living in Miami (as you would see in the next part of this blog)
That made me think, what do the Cubans who live in the island consider cheap or expensive.
Fundamental categorization:
If they are paying for it, it is always expensive.
If they have pay in dollars (called CUC in Cuba) it is VERY expensive, as their salaries are in Cuban Pesos
If someone else is paying, it is considered definitely cheap. (Regardless of the price).
Cuba has very many economic necessities, mainly THINGS (no supermarkets, food and kitchen items not easily available and not always available), but it has an abundance of services which is offered free, which Cubans do not praise or bring into discourse.
Cubans will seldom talk about the services offered to them free of charge
Primarily health related, free medical and hospital care, and on recommendations, rest and recreations in spa like atmosphere at mountain or seaside resorts. I personally know of the world class attention received by my Cuban friends in the realm of Cardiovascular medicine (including angiogram within hours of first chest pain), Ophthalmological care (with the latest Laser reduction of eye size, with a month off to rest and recuperate), Gastroenterological (including endoscopy), Urological (excellent care in prevention and treatment of prostatic diseases) as well as Gynecological attention, with the whole person taken into account.
We, who are acquainted with the systems in poor or developing countries, know how little attention the general population receives especially when they do not have money to pay. In Cambodia, families loose their agricultural land when the breadwinner is diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, as it requires cash payment for tests and treatment, even in a country like Malaysia which is richer than many of the developing countries, the attention to the poor and especially the marginalized is extremely poor.
Why don’t the Cubans laud their system, appreciate it and sing praise? Because they have known only this system and are not aware of the capitalist system of health care in many poor, developing and rich countries. My Uber driver who took me to my sisters home on my arrival in Miami from Cuba, lamented that he cannot afford to buy the medications and that he waits for his family to send him medications from Cuba.
Studying to become a doctor is absolutely free in Cuba and many of the current medical students were they born in the USA wouldn’t have been able to dream about becoming doctors. Hundreds of intelligent students in most of Latin America, Africa and Asia cannot dream of becoming doctors because of the financial restrictions and the lack of access even to information on how to become a doctor. I know this first hand with my dealings in remote Brazil, Colombia among other countries.

It is not only Medical Education that is offered free, all education from Pre-K to the doctoral level is offered free and the talented ones take advantage of it. Those who throw away their chances of studying in Cuba are primarily engaged in contacts and businesses dealing with tourists, so an average tourist to Cuba will meet that segment of the population, which is not well educated, in general.
I reminded the medical student that medical students in other countries pay from 50 to 100 thousands of dollars to get a medical education. If she were born in the USA, she wouldn’t have been able to enter a medical school, even though she is a capable student. If you go to any of the Cuban restaurants you would meet at least one waitress who had studied medicine in Cuba and is in no position to continue here studies here. And there is a school in PR, which converts (like in Philippines), doctoral degrees into Nursing diplomas so that they can work within the health care system.
(there were two Omaha Indians visiting, and the party was in honour of my Cuban mother who had left to attend a function)
On a recent get together in my house in Havana, of the 15 guests present, there were 5 educated at the Doctoral level including one with both MD and PhD, as well as 4 with education at the Masters degree level and the rest all had attended universities for various disciplines: including Law, Gastronomy, Publishing, Medical laboratory, engineering, English language. Such a record is enviable in any country, especially in a country that is economically poor such as Cuba. Yet you will hear more complaints about the price of chicken than praise for the high quality of education, which fundamentally contributes to their well being, being able to participate in social and cultural events in this highly cultural country. All you hear is about the struggle, difficulties. But I have very seldom seen people as happy as the Cubans in the island who are chirpy, friendly, amicable, offering solidarity and relationship and helping one another.
Perhaps it is the lack of exposure to another world other than Cuba that gives rise to this dichotomy of experience and its descriptions.
The quantitatively minded people and the less educated (perhaps the same), tend to migrate and as you would read in the other blog, they tend to complain about the poor, struggling and difficult life they experience when they migrate.
And they have lost the best what CUBA can offer: the social support of the society and friends and family.
I am an Anthropologist, my thinking is very qualitative and people oriented and I am very content in La Habana.
When I left the country yesterday, I told the immigration officer who was a very young, pretty Cuban (of African ancestry).
I don’t want to leave, why don’t you take my passport and go
And she smiled and said
You like Cuba, don’t you?