Marisa introduces me to her granddaughter and talks about
how much she loves her. She makes her say “hello, how are you” in English. I talk
to her in English and Spanish and she races off giggling. Then Marisa
introduces me to her friend Idalmes.
Both womyn help me express myself in Spanish and they
explain to each other everything I’m trying to say. I am very curious about all
the new construction taking place & I ask them whether it is the government
that is paying for the construction and the land or if it is private.
They tell me (I think), it is Cubans, not the government,
that pay for materials and labor. Once the house is built, they do not owe
anything to anyone. One womon says she hasn’t worked since the house was
finished – she doesn’t want to , she needs rest and peace. The other womon says
she works a few months out of the year.
Both womyn tell me they will rent their homes MUCH cheaper
than the hotel I’m staying at. I tell them I have an all-inclusive deal this
time but maybe next time.
These womyn are best friends. They treat each other so
kindly and affectionately – and treat me kindly also – I ask them if they’ve
know each other all their lives, and yes they have. Idalmes takes us into her
house to show me what I can rent the next time I return, maybe with my daughter
Beautiful bright swirled green tiles form the floor on the
entry way and all through the house. The first room we walk into is the living
room with the open kitchen right behind it. On the left of these big, long
rooms are three bedrooms and at the very end a very modern bathroom. This house
is immaculately clean as well, like mine might almost resemble when I know I’m
having special company.
A young man is watching tv in the living room. He gets up
politely as she introduces her youngest son - who quitely towers over all of us - and comes to shake my hand. She then
takes us outside to a little covered porch and then down a few steps to a
magical garden with banana trees, lemon, mango, papaya, and an avocado tree. She
tells me this is her job, every day, clearing some of the land to plant what
she wants to grow.
I ask my same questions about the government and fear and
freedom of speech and get the same answers. It is so peaceful here and although
they would like more food sometimes and more money, they are happy, their
children are happy, and their grandchildren are happy.
I ask if there is violence in Cuba, if men hit their wives
or kill them. They gravely tell me no, not at all, but they know that happens
in the U.S. – they both have televisions and watch movies.
We talk about the dangers of more people from the U.S.
coming to Cuba. They look at me blankly. I tell them about how good capitalism
is at tricking people. They still look at me blankly. They don’t understand how
they can be tricked. I tell them someone will come and offer then what they
think will be TONS of money for their homes. They might not be able to resist. Once
they get the money and a u.s.ofa. person has moved in, then prices will
skyrocket (try saying that in Spanish!) And the money they thought was soooooo
much, will turn out to be not enough anymore.
It’s called gentrification. They nod wisely and I can see
they understand. I explain to them that we in the u.s. are conditioned not to
care about other people, the people that we are getting cheap labor from or
slave labor, the people whose resources we are stealing. I tell them there’s
not a country in the world that we have gone into and not devastated the
Oh sure, some people will get very rich – but most people
That’s my fabulous conversation for today! I look at the
time and realize I have less than an hour to make it back to the bicycle womon
so we hug and kiss goodbye and I head back the way I came.
It takes only 20 minutes for me to get back and I don’t have
to get off my bike once - except when my hat flies off as I race downhill. I learn later that I was on my way to the indigenous
museum and should have kept going but I had thought it was the other way.
oh well, I’ll just have to return.