The Island of the Nobodies


“Outside of Cuba I will be somebody, here I am nobody” an architect who now earns his living as a cabdriver told me

“What good was it to have gone to college if today I am not practicing my profession? I fulfilled my father’s dream of a college degree, but mine is truncated.”

A common conversation among Cubans. Without having met or seen each other before, we share these confessions. The theme is always the same: “How hard it is.”

My travel companion and I complain about the transportation services and the heat, despite the rain. The driver was telling us his tricks to circumvent the police, cops on motorcycles who impose fines, and the traffic inspectors. The cabdriver, a man about 50 years of age, is driving a state car.

“I do not have a fixed a salary and have to pay 120 pesos a day to the State. The spare parts I have to buy come out of my pocket and every day there is a new events report form. Add to this, that I not only have to figure out how to support my family, but also ‘theirs’,” he says, referring to the police officers and inspectors who live off bribes.

I asked him if he wanted to work in his field of study again some day. He answered that would be the day he finds a job that pays more for a day’s work than what he makes driving a taxi.

“Thank goodness my father passed away more than 30 years ago. I think that had he seen the state of the country today, he would die of sadness. Where else in the world does a restaurant server make more than a doctor or a lawyer, and a sanitation worker makes more than a teacher? That only happens in Cuba, the island of the Nobodies.

“This is why the youth don’t care to study or work. What’s the point? This is why thousands of Cubans leave every year. Abroad, you at least have an opportunity to be somebody. Life’s irony: ‘A socialist state with everything for the good of one single person.'”

My companion and I looked at each other. We understood in silence that he was done talking with a phrase that needed not explanation. There was no need. We got his meaning.

by Laritza Diversent

Photo: se71, Flickr

Translated by: Habanero

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