Reports from Cuba: Chimeras and Frustrations
Chimeras and Frustrations
It is a little more than a week before the start of school and the youngest at home are already taking stock of what they’ve done on their vacation. They go to sleep thinking about what they’ll tell their friends in September and in their little heads they remember each outing with their families. Although parents have few options to entertain their children in the summer, they always make an effort.
The options range from five pesos to buy an ice cream cone at the corner snack bar, to the complicated and greatly desired trip to the beach. I’ve made many promises to my little ones to take them for a dip, but I still haven’t been able to keep my promise. A trip to Santa Maria or Guanabo is like the children’s Road to El Dorado during the summer season.
A trip to the beach is a chimera. The main difficultly rests in the long lines for the bus, with its riots of boys who push in front of everyone because they don’t like to wait that long. Coming home, as if it weren’t hard enough to catch the route 400, we add the drunkenness and fights that break out in front of the innocent eyes of the children. Not to mention the abundant stream of bad words and atrocities shouted with a natural mastery from one end of the bus to the other.
As an alternative to the beach, the other day we inflated a plastic pool in the basement and poured in a few buckets of water. They had a good time, after the frustration of the breakdown of the transport that would take us to Marazul—coming and going guaranteed—but in the end it left us with swimsuits packed and snacks prepared.
To go to the beach there are other variants such as the almendrones—classic American cars—that cost one convertible peso* (CUC) each but don’t guarantee the return. At one time we could take advantage of the buses that run on the tourist routes, at least for a visit, because they cost 3 CUC each coming and going and the children didn’t have to pay. However, now they’ve gone up to 5 CUC, which is too expensive for ordinary mortals.
Other options, which we have done, are going to the movies, the theater, the usual family visits and games in the park below. But that quickly bores them and they want more. They are tireless in their requests for the Aquarium, the beach, the pool, the zoo, and the Maestranza Fun Park in Old Havana. We decided we weren’t going to the last one any more. It’s too much suffering under the sun and closes at the best time, when it starts to get dark.
If we went to the Zoo twice it’s because it’s close, although it already has a super-well-known terrible reputation. We can go to the Aquarium at night, but sadly, that’s when transport in that area of Havana is more complicated than in the daytime, and so we haven’t had an opportunity to go. In short, if we add up the possible choices, there are few real possibilities of entertaining children.
There are still about ten days of vacation but I don’t think we’ll do much more. Now we’re focused on uniforms, backpacks, shoes, snacks, notebooks, pencils and everything that makes up the school package. Luckily they’ve already forgotten the chimerical holiday and have replaced it with school. We still have the task of making sure there’s no lack of teacher for the classroom, as happened in the last semester of the previous school year. That would be too much frustration.
*Translator’s note: The average monthly wage in Cuba is around 20 CUC. One CUC is about 24 Cuban pesos (about one dollar US).