What a beautiful way to begin a day! I would do this for the
rest of my life, if only. 6:30a.m. I’m on the beach, stretching. Then I jog 30
minutes, 4 times up and back on the hard packed sand close to the water’s edge
picking up the few scattered bits of basura – broken glass, hotel plastic cups,
beer cans and straws, straws, straws along with cigarette butts; do my Tibetan
stretches, and then swim in the clear beautiful calm refreshing waters of the
Today as I gather up my towel and bag to head back to my
room to shower, put on my Black Womyn’s Lives Matter t-shirt, and then go to
breakfast, a womon walks down the steps to the beach as I begin to walk toward
them. She is talking to me and I realize when we get closer it is my first
friend I made in Cuba, Josefa.
She is speaking very rapidly, lugging a white woven plastic
sack over her shoulder whose edges are as frayed as her skirt. As she drops the
bag to the ground, I hear the tinkling of plastic cups and bottles, and metal
cans crunching to the sand. As she continues, speedy words accompanied by wild
gestures and painful expressions, I can only understand her saying she is
hungry and she doesn’t have any money.
What does it do to a womon’s psyche or soul to hear another
womon say she is hungry just before the first womon goes to stuff her face at a
copious spread of way too much food? In my life I have never, ever been so
hungry I had to collect cans in order to eat.
I wonder how the well-fed people of Cuba feel about these
hungry people living in their midst? I wonder what the hotels do with all the
left-over food the tourists don’t consume?
The womyn who work the restaurant tell me they eat before
they start work and get food from a different kitchen than the tourists’
kitchen. I can’t figure out if they think their food is better than the tourist
food or poorer. I love the food here because there are always a variety of
beans and rice, raw fresh veggies, steamed veggies, and fruit that all taste
like food should taste, food used to taste when I was growing up.
Plus delicious fresh fish and scrambled eggs – everything I
choose to eat.
But there’s no strong spice, no hot peppers, only a ground
black pepper that appears more latte-colored than black waiting in glass
shakers on each table. And I’m sure nothing Cuban about the feast but at least
it’s not MacDonalds or Waffle House.
But here is Josefa, searching the already hot beach for beer
cans and plastic cups tourists have carelessly discarded so she can make a few
pesos and maybe get some little thing to eat.
I see she is still wearing her broken flipflops and I ask
her why and where are her new ones (which I bought for her yesterday). She is
horrified and says no way would she wear them now, they are too good. She
indicates they are on top of her closet, a large wooden box that stands on its
side and holds a few clothes folded in stacks. She declares firmly they are
special and she will wear them when she is not working.
It seems, always when I’m seen outside the hotel area, at
least one person approaches me and asks for money. They are usually terribly
thin and old, although once a younger womon with a sweet, smiling daughter who
looked to be a teenager, asked me for money.
Often after we begin talking, I also get asked for my
clothes, shoes, anything I’m not bringing back to the u.s. with me. But I’ve
promised all these things to Josefa and her family.
I try to give a peso, at least to the womyn who ask: it is
so very little for me to give yet it means so much to her.
I have never in my life been forced to ask for money on the
street, for this I’m grateful. There were times I was desperate enough to
seriously consider selling my body and even selling drugs, but was fortunate
enough to not have to.
I can’t imagine what it takes for someone to have to beg for
money to survive but so many humans around the world are forced to, at the very
least if they’re lucky and often forced to do even more egregious things.
And why is asking for money so egregious, so shameful? It is
not the fault of the person but the fault of the society as well as the people
who take so much, leaving little or nothing for others. It is those people who
are asked for money or help that should be ashamed for not seeing and realizing
their sistah human needs help.
Why should we allow this, the begging for help, to happen?
I’ve read what the u.s. and England alone spend daily on perfume would feed all
the world’s hungry. Why is it more important to us to smell like tabu or channel
or whatever than it is to make sure people do not go hungry?
I wonder what the people in Cuba who have more choose to
spend their money on instead of feeding those that have less.
I have not given Josefa any money yet but I have promised
her my clothes and things when I leave, even though she will probably swim in
them, they are old, and they will be very dirty. She insists she doesn’t care.
I will go eat my fill and more if I want, while Josefa
continues down the beach to look for garbage that might or might not turn into