Lunes, 23 de Julio de 2018
Última actualización: 00:16 CEST
SOCIETY

Access to 'quality' recreation: another sign of social gaps in Cuba

Young people on El Malecón in Havana. (PBASE)

Ronald is an 18-year-old living in the municipality of Havana Plaza. He comes from a humble and hardworking family that has made sacrifices to give him a decent upbringing, despite their limited means. Ronald needs 30CUC to come up with the 85 needed to enjoy a full day at the Hotel Tuxpan in Varadero. His two friends, of the same age, are also about the same amount short.

No one knows how to come up with that kind of money "without getting into anything bad or out of line," says Ronald, who works at a coffee shop in Nuevo Vedado.

"Or bothering our parents, who have enough stress just giving us food to eat", adds Eric, one of his friends.

"The hotels are expensive, but the good thing is that you have a nice time, because nobody would think of spending almost a hundred and then doing something to ruin it," says Mayito, the third friend, who works at an underground pizzeria.

Many adolescents and young people complain that "healthy recreation" activities that the Government designs and promotes on the Island for them are more ideological propaganda instruments than sociocultural offerings. Others believe that Havana has become musically crass and socially violent.

In the Los Sitios neighborhood, Omarito sold, for five CUC, the cake that a neighbor had given him for his 21st birthday.

"I'm not up for cake, I'm up to get me some [drugs]", he told potential buyers; the young man is hooked on alcohol and piedra (stone); also known as canto on the island, piedra is crack. Although Cuban authorities are mum on the matter, the use of this drug has spread over the last five years among adolescents and young people. A dose costs between 5 and 10 CUC.

Idalia, Omarito's mother, works in document management. She gave up a long time ago on her son, due to his addiction. Although she recognizes her responsibility and negligence, she also criticizes the fact that for adolescents and young people there is a lack of social spaces where alcohol consumption and, at times, violence, do not prevail.

"My salary was never enough to guarantee anything more than food for Omarito, and certainly not enough to get into hotels, where his friends with money can go," says Idalia.

Like her, Mabel's parents complain that recreation options for a Cuban family, with an average salary of about 30CUC per month, are reduced to loud music and drinking.

When she was just 16 years old, Mabel was already an alcoholic and, on occasion, consumed crack. Her parents, senior government officials, decided to get involved in a corruption ring in order to be able to afford something better for their daughter: weekend access to hotels in Varadero, costing 100 - 150 CUC.

"Mabel hasn't been drinking or taking drugs, for three years," says her mother, willing to make a moral sacrifice in order to afford "healthy recreation" for her.

In the 256th issue of Somos Jóvenes - a publication of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) - recreation was described as "freedom, spontaneity, fun, entertainment, enjoyment and relaxation from daily tensions, but with a healthy perspective".

For Félix, a 20-year-old who abandoned his studies in Art History, and the University Student Federation (FEU), to help his family economically, this conception is not based on Cuban reality.

"There are no simple answers in a society that inevitably tends towards consumerism and the exacerbation of social inequalities," says Felix, who currently works as an unlicensed tourist guide.

This job has allowed him to help his family financially, and also get into hotels in Varadero, which he enjoys with his girlfriend twice a month.

In the middle of last March, specialists in Advertising with the RTV Comercial network showed up at the Kim Il-sung pre-university school in Arroyo Naranjo, as part of an anti-drugs program. There was a drawing and the prizes were a weekend at a state campsite, and four boxes of Bucanero beer.

"That same television network airs videos portraying the other Cuba, the one that we Cubans cannot afford," spat a teacher at this school.