A friend swore to me ten years ago that he would not go to the beach again until he could buy—near the sand—a beer in national currency. His pasty white legs confirm that he hasn’t been to the sea for a decade, while waiting to pay for a Cristal beer with his own wages. My neighbor on the corner gave her word that she would not cut her hair before a certain date longed for by many Cubans. Lice made her break her promise at the beginning of the nineties, by which time her hair reached her waist. Recently she changed her strategy and put a glass of water on the wardrobe; she will only remove it when her exiled children can return to live with her.

Tiny wooden houses rest on a tomb in Havana Cemetery. They are the material expression of requests to la Milagrosa, the miracle worker, to provide housing for those who want to escape the paternal home or a crowded collective hostel. Along with these miniatures there are toy planes and boats, to realize the dream of escaping from the insular world to one of natural size. In the same cemetery, to the south, is the tomb of the famous medium who embodied the spirit of Tá José. A rooster, whose head was cut off right there, was offered by some young man who finally achieved a highly coveted position in a foreign firm.

Others are waiting for the miracle of an exit permit, for the release of a political prisoner, or for a license to open a small restaurant. This seems to be the island of impossibilities, the land of unfulfilled promises, the country of offerings withheld, asked for but never received. I myself have sworn that I am not going to stop writing because each of my lines is a prayer from one who can’t take it any more, the virtual vote from one who has let her hair grow, put her offering on the marble and seen several glasses of water dry up.

240 thoughts on “Promises

  1. Cuba of dreams … of tears and of the dead who keep us on the land … if just as a memory we still want it free.
    Thank you Julio its just that sometimes the dialogue gets to complicated & a simpleton like myself gets lost in the miriad of facts figures, statistics & opinions of the well learned.
    Simplicity, as I get older is more soothing than the high utopian thoughts I once had …
    Memories of my land find me at the odest of places and times … anger has subsided somewhat … what the fire still burns if nothing else passing it on tto the next generation whom we must tell … the truth but tell!

  2. What if behind & at the bottom of all the “isms” still is a human being brething & living from day to day?
    What if with or without education yhe measure of success is not the knowledge aquired in a classroom but in life?
    What if in another part of our world the values are different, not meassured by statistics or analized by the pundits & experts, but by how you go on living?
    There is a lot of value in education, yet as ointed out by Julio … there are whores with degrees ” out there” … “doctors pushing carts” …
    So what is the solution? choices made out of an elegant education or made with the lack of it.
    I think there is a lot of time wasted in the question of this great society, between exploitation and pollution, between hunger and aids, between political philosophies democracies and totalitarian alike.
    The first is the human being, with dignity, freedom, honor and a moral stance.
    All these things can be learned, earned and been born with yet not all have the chance to use them.
    If you are in one place is the caste ruling; if you are in another is the gendre rule; in another the color of the skin rule; in another the place of birth, in another the age; in another the religion … and on … and on …
    We as humans are imperfect, even at birth we cause pain … to another …
    while we grow we are dependant and we come to the idea of entitlement, when we mature we break away from it (hopefully) yet we remain the same … land after land, country after country.
    We can see a little part of our world from our perch … at this time in this place there is this regime who’s picture is fidel.
    This regime is the one that we hope will fall, how much our salary is, where our education comes from or how educated we are matters not (to me) what matters is the human being with diginity, freedom, honor and a moral stance …

  3. Ok Julio…we’ll do that…I just have seen the ones struggling(american single mothers and fathers) next to me in school, and I do think that generalizing to justify not helping others is not a good thing to do.
    My father always show me that the strong should have the responsability on helping the weaker, and even though we think some people is trying to have it easy, living on social security and goverment help by choice shows that some people for one reason of another can not make it, and the amount of money that is spend on them is just peanuts compare to the amount of money spend wrongfully in this country..we should be proud of helping other without judgment…talk to you later Julio.
    It is my pleasure. Kind regards.

  4. Ok Cubano there are people that do make a lot less than that amount. If you are familiar with what a bell curve or Gaussian distribution is that 47,000 represents the hight point and there is also low points on either side that represent those people that do not get to that amount and people that are way over that amount. So yes those people do exist but what I have been trying to tell you is that they are a minority. Like it is also a minority those that are super rich.

    I have known many people during my live in Cuba and here and I tell you I have seen some people that really want to have it easy and do nothing. I have nothing but contempt for them. There is many that do live from working the system in their benefit. And that is not fair to us that work really hard.

    I do agree with you about “nobody is better just because they have money and do not smoke it. We are as colourful and diverse as nature, and if we respect that, it will be the ultimate freedom of the human race.”

    So I am not sure what we are argue about then?

    You still have not answer my question

    What would you think will be a better society. From economic point of view and social point of view. Described to me.

    You can place the post on the following post by Yoani.

  5. Julio.
    Is sad that you refer at statistics that not include the many families is this country trying to make it with the minimum wage, and if that is right, well how come I have not seen the minimum wage go to that amount you show in here?
    And again the lazy calling is so retoric and evasive, plus the smoking reference which have nothing to do with social issues. The fortunate in here has used all this for decades to keep the ones less fortunate at bay, the name calling and the judging. Or is it that the rich and sucessful do not smoke it too? But is ok for them because they have money and class positions?
    I lived in The Netherlands and Spain, and now I can realize how some societies are really doing and achieving better social standards for all people, and still have free economics. But the laws and institutions are made so everybody is respected and look at as a human being.
    When prostitution is legal and look at as a profession, abuse of the individuals is minimum, they do their best to educate the population to respect every indivudual and their choices, its amazing how they has far gone beyond the practice of humiliating others on this issues. And still they have all kind of human being living side be side, but with respect of the integrity of your fellow citizens.
    Nobody is better just because they have money and do not smoke it. We are as colourful and diverse as nature, and if we respect that, it will be the ultimate freedom of the human race.

  6. When you say this country do you refer to US?
    If you refer to US you are looking to the wrong statistics.
    The average salary for US is about 44 thousand a year if I remember correctly.
    It was not my intention you asked me about if 500 was a lot and it is not I do realize how much is a lot depends on the person but you know many people the immense majority in this country can afford to buy a 500 dollar computer.

    Cubano, people do make choices in their live
    some make the easy choice of not going to school and getting and education. Education is the ticket out of poverty. If you do get an education in a field that is in demand you will be able to get good money for your services. That is capitalism for you. Demand and offer.

    You do have to recognize to that there is many Lazy people that wants to live of everyone else’s back and I do not think is fair to us that work neither fair to them.

    They need to get off the things they are smoking and work like the rest of us do. It is really sad that many young people in Cuba do choose to do prostitution. The government does not seem to be doing enough to solve the problem in any case I think Fidel is acting more as a Pimp given advertising to Cuban gineteras as the most highly educated in the world.

    Cubano because I think about all of them in Cuba is that I am here. Exposing the fallacy of a regime that is actually more exploitative as a society than capitalism is. To make it even worst they do have the ideological filter that Yoani talks about.

    So let me ask you this. Since you seem to be so critical of what we have here, what is it that you think will be a better solution?

  7. Julio.
    If you worry about cuba and our people, you sould think about all of them, and I got the feeling in this last message you are showing off, sorry you do that.
    Cause the minimum salary in this country does not even hit the 20.000 a year. Do not take me wrong I am happy for you. I am just thinking about the ones in need here too as well as my hermanos de la isla.
    This is not personal, but we are trying to reach a higher and more just society, so I do not think that calling people you do not know and practice prostitution as a mean of work “whores” and people that might have been left behind on this unequal world “lazy” without knowing their personal stories is kind of unpolite and it’s not helping on the struggle of building a higher civilization with equality and justice for all. I have heard that from the ones that have everything on their hands easy, and want to evade responsabilities on behave of the ones that are not so fortunate.

  8. Cubano

    I do not know how much money you make but here the average salary in the area I live is about 60 to 70 thousand dollars a year so yes
    500 dollars is nothing.

    While in Cuba you can witness the Castro selling obsolete Chinese made computers for prices of 2000 CUC that means more than 2000 dollars!
    to people that make less than 20 dollars a month.
    That is call abuse!

  9. No cubano the only thing you have to do in Cuba was not study hard
    Did you ever had to close your mouth about the wrong things because you knew that if you talk you will end up without the education?
    That education was never free my parents with the low salaries they were paid, paid handsomely for it. We were four and from us I was the only one for whatever reason to finish with a University degree.

    No cubano neither the education or the health in Cuba are free we all paid for it with the very low salaries.

    I am not for wars, either. I think if we expend the money we expend on wars in doing programs to help this countries we will be all better of.

  10. I was not talking about Cuba, and I worked at a restaurant, being a Chemist and Industrial Technologist, next to me at that restaurant are americans Accountants, Phd on history, Medical Assistants and I can go on…
    And I lived 29 years in Cuba, and the only thing I had to do to get to any level of education it was to study hard..firstable I am not defending the cuban goverment…but besides the money they pocketed as you say, they give education, (I had it), and health care for free, I was treated for years for long problems since childhood…I can not deny it, I appreciated it and am thankful for those things.
    Here they pocket your money too, private sector and state, and they do not even have the decency to give those priorities for free to their own citizens.But they can use that money to keep wars that kill thousands of human beings.

  11. Cubano, for example in Costa Rica there is a big Intel plant to produce computers. It is the biggest employer or one of the biggest employers in Costa Rica. Needless to say that it pays the best salaries too.

    Compare that to Cuba?

    Where the government takes the hard currency this workers would have been paid and pockets it. And pays them in worthless Cuban pesos. What would you call that?

    Does not the regime sells Nickel and any resource they can get their hands on?
    They are as exploitative as any other, or maybe should I say more so than any other.

    “Very low cost? where do you buy your stuff?”
    for sure I do not buy them in Cuba where people pay exorbitant prices for obsolete technology all thanks to the monopoly the Cuban regime has. Without any competition and controling everything that enter the country thru the customs service they have full control of what enters the country and they are able to set the prices they want on the products.
    A computer used to cost here in the US about 3000 dollars and more
    Now for less than 500 you can get very good computers useful for most people.
    If you have inform your self you will also know about the one laptop per child program where laptop computers where produce at a very very low cost the original estimate was about 100 dollars they had to increase a bit because they did not get the volume of orders they were expecting.

    Those are solutions to help those in poor countries. That is the right approach we should take in helping others out of poverty.

    “You make it sound always so easy all this wonderful choices of education, I know some are there,but they are not accessible,(lot of times in hiding)and they will only take so many students a year”

    this is also true for Cuba not every graduate of high school would go to graduate from college and not every one that entered college was able to graduate. Many left for different reasons. Some becuase they did not have the will to study some because they were too lazy and some because they did not have the brains and many other reasons. So, yes higher education is not for everyone. Someone still have to clean the streets and drive a taxi but that will be someone without education or a bare minimal education. But Cubano as you know you can see brain surgeons driving a taxi and nuclear scientist as bell boys in a hotel.

    Even worst. Whores with law and medicine degrees ! Do you think that state of affairs is correct?

  12. Julio.
    So this is called progress? And it has to come at such a high cost,without going into the fact that many of the parts are built in very poor countries, paying many times only cents to the workers,(and that’s not Cuba) to be sold for hundreds of dollars. I am not talking about luxuries, like all this unnecessary iPod’s, or a new cellphone a month, I am talking about very much needed softwares to study, not supply by schools, but ask to have, and I did have to buy a computer in order to go to tech school, cause the told flat out they would not accept our work by hand.
    Very low cost? where do you buy your stuff?
    And let’s look at the fact that we all are living on the Planet Earth, goods are build and produce from earth resources. Who gave anyone those resources for themselves when we are all the same? only power, represion and many times crime througout human evolution has given some the “right” to own parts of the earth. And by now that we have evolved enough, I think it is a dignifying responsability and obligation for those that are allowed to “own” what really belongs to all(private or state) to guaranteed and give all human being basic necesities.
    You make it sound always so easy all this wonderful choices of education, I know some are there,but they are not accessible,(lot of times in hiding)and they will only take so many students a year, but go deeper and talk to the children in this country that has not seen any other choice(youngsters do not always know how to analize all the consecuences of their acts) than to go to the army, I have talked to many of them, and it is very sad.
    The past is the past and it’s there to learn from it and make things better, not to keep deeping into it to justify what it’s happening wrong now in this the so called free world we are living in. Angola happened long ago,(very wrong, war is a terrible thing), Irak and Afghanistan are happening now!! and it’s not precisely the comunists doing it.

  13. I mean to put this link for the attorney

    Cubans are opening their mouth for so long close by a regime that did not care for them. That only asked for sacrifices and more sacrifices for the future generations.

    People in Cuba are waking up to the reality. And the clock is ticking really fast.
    All of these blogs with their words in harmony are like bells toll. The bells are tolling for the Cuban regime.

  14. Cubano

    “in order to take peoples money and get so rich” you make it look like its highway robbery! :-)

    Nobody pushes me to have the latest computer or even to have a computer.
    I want to have a computer. I do not really need to have a computer. Is a choice I make.
    I could as easily get access to the internet on my local library.

  15. Cubano

    “As an student, I had to buy their technologies and software in order to go on with my learning, sometimes every couple of years you are oblige to buy new technologies cause they make little changes in software and make them unavailable for the system you already bought, (no mercy you had to do it), dirty business, many of us do not have the money and we are in school, there you go and get in more debt.”

    Is called progress!
    See we are progressing we are advancing but go back to Cuba I am sure you know how the things works over there.
    They used to use tractors now they are back to using animals for farming.
    so they are doing the opposite to progress.

    You do not have to have the latest computer I usually use update a computer maybe every 3 years or 4, and the cost have been drastically reduce.
    Do you know a cell phone like the iPhone has more computing power than supercomputers 10 years ago.
    Do you know that a computer today a Quad Processor has more computer power than a Cray YMP supercomputer!

    We have gotten all that and at a very very low cost.
    Think of it as a democratization of technology.
    There will be a time when we will be able to print things we want ourselves at home like in “star trek ” replicators.

    Go to a museum like the Smithsonian institution and you will see the progress in machinery from the steam engine forward.
    Yes we go step by step advancing into things that are better. That is the way it is.

  16. Liam,
    I am not for totally unregulated free market there needs to be government policing of corporations. If they had follow the laws we would not have gotten in the mess we did. Some people have always try to make the system work for them to make themselves rich easily and that’s what some people did and created the mess on the market for all of us.
    But one needs to be careful about placing too many rules because them the system becomes so clog with rules that is impossible for business to proliferate and produce.

    Unfortunately for communism it demonstrated that is unable to produce at any level. Not even survival level. That is something Capitalism excels at.
    Think that when Marx wrote the things he wrote we are talking about the Industrial revolution in England where people used to work very long hours and had little or no protection. It is not the case any more.

    On the other hand go to countries like China and even Cuba where the workers have no protection against this companies doing business there.
    The people become more like slaves that are rented to capitalist the world over to be exploited.

    What I do hate is to see people believe that what little there is in Cuba is socialism.

    I have argue before that there are two systems that more closely resemble the system in Cuba.
    One is monopolistic capitalism of state. With the state been the sole proprietor of everything.
    and the other is Slavery. Think about the meager salaries they pay this people.
    less than 20 dollars a month and they been ask to sacrifice more by this fat cats that know nothing about sacrifice.

  17. Julio,if the unregulated free market had worked then we would not be in the world economic crisis now.It needs regulation by strong government.The ‘sub-prime’ scandal in the ISA put many many people out of their homes and destitute. It is to Obamas credit that the government intervened so strongly despite the hysteria of the free market neo-cons. Also,if he can go some way to solving the scandal of 50 million anerican citizens who have no health cover, then he will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents.

    Europe has turned its back on the neo-con model and so have the emerging market economies of Brazil as well.It is not the model for a new Cuba either.

    On Cubans in Angola,my old cuban friends who served there are proud of what they did to fight against the racist apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela is forever thanking those cubans who fought there and helped to bring a quicker end to apartheid.

    Cubano. Very interesting commentary. Thank you.

  18. Cubano
    I do not think is cliche and yet he is not the only one doing it. Some of the super rich do contribute to this causes and movie stars too. For example Barbara Streisand
    and Angelina Jolie.

    The thing is we need to find a way to get the millions left behind to bootstrap them out of misery. Not the other way around. The communist only know how to make of everyone a beggar. That is not what we should be doing. We should find ways like the affords made by Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank to help the poor get out of poverty.

    Yes capitalism and market economies are not for the lazy. For those I do not know how to solve it. I sure do not want them to be maintained with the money I pay on my taxes.

    As for “I work with a young girl, 20 years old, she went to the army desperate to get an education she could afford”

    That you know is propaganda!
    In this country there is many many ways to get money for education without having to go to the army. The government has many programs to loan money to the poor for education. Check it out on the web.

    Fidel Castro, did not give younger children than her a choice. He sent them to wars in Africa and other places. And not even in exchange for education. That lady you are referring to she had other choices. Cubans under Castro do not get to choose.

  19. It seems like nothing is free in life … serving in the army has its risks.
    Since life is not perfect either … I belive then that’s when parents or good friends or other should lend their love & advise when a choice like that is to be made.
    Yes, education is not free for the likes of many yet it is available for all.
    I agree is sad for that girl you work with Conc, more than sad it is the idea that the politicians of this world turn the service of our countries into a parody in which the mentioning of the “needs” of the country masks the greed of the few, for power, for money or who knows for what.
    Yes is sad … having to make choices like that, is sad to die for country not knowing if we truly die for a good cause or for what?
    On the other hand … as of little perveived value as it may be: I give yer the only thing I have to give … my gratitude for her sacrifice, for her service with my deepest sorrow for her scars …

  20. Julio.
    You wrote..”Thanks to them we have technologies like the ones we have today with supercomputers at home and all the other technologies. Incidentally none of this technologies were produce in a communist country. There is no incentive since the state becomes the sole proprietor of everything.
    How many kids today are so incredible intelligent as to master technologies? People like Gates were at the right time on the right place, and have the wits and greed to create hardcore monopolies with their knowledge in order to take peoples money and get so rich.
    As an student, I had to buy their technologies and software in order to go on with my learning, sometimes every couple of years you are oblige to buy new technologies cause they make little changes in software and make them unavailable for the system you already bought, (no mercy you had to do it), dirty business, many of us do not have the money and we are in school, there you go and get in more debt.

  21. Julio it is such a cliche always the Gates and so examples..people that are allow to make billions taking the chunk from all of us and having some charities to show they care!!!! but not trying to use their power to really change the roots of the problem…cause millions indeed get left behind, and the system is still the same…
    and it’s all around you if you want to really see it..
    I work with a young girl, 20 years old, she went to the army desperate to get an education she could afford(like many other youngster in this country struggling to get an education) she was sent to war, got badly injured, physically and mentally, she had to see dear friends blown by a bomb next to herself, she is marked for life, and still haven’t been able to get the education she was searching for..
    Pretty sad when youth have to even risk their lives to study, cause their choices are running out, and she came back, (others do not have the same fate)..No wonder one of the adverts in the army that you can see even on the train you ride to school and work it’s about getting a good and free education in the army…

  22. Andy I am not proposing anarchy either even our country (US) has rules to protect the little people against the mega corporation that if you think hard about them they are very very similar to what Fidel Castro got going in Cuba.
    Things like price fixing etc

  23. Unregulated markets are a disaster. Intellectually brilliant and powerful people find ways to play the game and literally make billions selling smoke and mirrors. Billions of dollars (yen, pounds, euros, etc.) that are skimmed off the top of everything. They add NO value (they would dispute that)… it’s a private “tax”. And no amount of “giving back” through charitable good works can make up for the theft.

    I say this as an ‘unrepentant’ capitalist — seriously. I think people will do best when working in their own self interest. But there have to be controls… rules of the game.

    Otherwise… we’ll go back to what is effectively a feudal system.

  24. Well to me that is the formula that Cuba needs to generate wealth. Once Cuba is a first world country like Sweden , Norway, Denmark.They can start regulating and move to a more “socialistic” agenda like those countries if they want. BTW they are ahead of the game if you think about it .They already have free health care, free education.

  25. Liam, maybe economically we need to go back and forth between full market economy and a little bit of government control when things go sour. But having market economy without government intervention has a lot of benefits. For once companies can move faster than government bureaucrats.

  26. Yes,concubino,Nelson Mandela is a hero of mine and his experience and advice had a huge influence on the irish peace process.


  27. … even if “fidelism” (I like how it sounds) is only a cult?
    The power to carry ideals with the image of a person is only superficial.
    Yes, it seems a lot of people is enamored w/che guevara yet when these people grows up (if they do) they begin to see the cracks in korda’s picture.
    There are many sites that expose the reality of that butcher, yes as many as the ones that contribute to the “hero image” but … remeber that even che is just a creation from fidel’s public relations machine.
    No fidel, no heroic revolutionary images.
    The definition of revolutionary has changed, there is a part of this world that can “think” revolution from their confortable arm chairs, not willing to go any further than that.
    The ones who have suffred & still suffer the consecuences of “the revolutionaries” ideals and goals, are the ones that can convincingly tell the truth about it.
    There are no more stronger facts than hunger, prisions, limited individual freedoms, labor camps and all the “punishments” combined because of the lack of support for the “revolution” by the people sugjugated by it.
    I am sure there are lots of people who do not belive the conditions existing in Cuba … yet for being a “socialist paradise” I don’t see the multitudes of people clamoring to emigrate to Cuba.
    I don’t see all the economic heavens and all the oportunities created by the great educational system.
    When an engineer has scrape for food & basic substenance … whe people has a rationing card … instead of being permited to produce, whe their individuality & creative talent is stifled … is that the “socialist heaven” other countries wan to live by?
    Yes, Venezuela, Bolivia and some central american countries as well … their leaders want it but: does the people want it?
    So far our friend from Venezuela has followed fidel’s plan … all the reveses are cause the lack of rain, foreign interferance & mostly because the USA … familiar?
    fidelism is just a cukt … people, simple people like me can see thru it … we may be oppressed for a while, some of us are (by the Grace of God) fortunate to be able to escape … most don’t yet … we fight, we go on, we survive and is not because of a cult, it is because of a dream, a hope and faith in the future …
    Our future!

  28. Concubino. An interesting article but i do not agree with it all.

    Being in business myself,it is crystal clear that the world economic crisis has mortally wounded the completely unregulated free market model.

    The ‘Keynesian’economic model is back in favour. A mixed economy of private enterprise AND government intervention and direction. Look at the stimulus package in the USA. Look at France,Germany,UK. All taking control of key areas of their economies and bringing in much tighter regulations on the banks. The neo-con/neo-liberal approach to a totally free UNREGULATED market is dead.

    I strongly believe that it would be a disaster for Cuba. The shock therapy was tried by Yeltsin in Russia and was a miserable failure.

    However, thanks for a new link. My Spanish (cuban spanish!)is ok.


  29. This my opinion about Nelson Mandela.
    He will go in history as one of the greatest freedom fighters known to man kind.
    A man who keep his word, a man who let go power when he can easily could stay there forever like his neighbor Robert Mugabe is doing..

  30. Ordinary people want a good life and justice.

    I am not surprised that Evo Morales has just been re-elected in a landslide victory in Bolivia.

    He has kept his promises and used the wealth of the nation to benefit the poor,the deprived and has included the indigenous people in the life of Bolivia.He has done this in a democratic way and put his proposals to the people for their acceptence or rejection.He has also increased his vote based on his track record in power.

    Again,love him or loathe him,he has passed the democratic test.Like Obama he has his mandate for the next 4 years.

    I hope that the future in Cuba will be for the interests of the cuban people and not just the US corporations.


    PS;- Concubino,remember,for many years leaders in the west including the USA called Nelson Mandela a’terrorist’. But the reality of politics forced them to recognise him as the leader of the South African People. He became a ‘freedom fighter’.Politicians will make deals in their own national interest. You know that if Raul and Obama reach that point then they will negotiate. In North Korea the US government negotiates with the Korean government over nucleur capacity but publicly refuses to talk with Cuba. Where is the logic? It perpetuates the stalemate position inside Cuba.I enjoy your contributions on this site.

    Andy;yes i think that the article i flagged raises issues that cannot be ignored in any transition.

  31. Concub … Liam … Julio …
    The sad reality is that Because of all the suffering people feels justified in exacting revange.
    Wishful thinking may persuade some of “back door” deals, many things are possible.
    For the people in the land, the aldeanos … that does not matter.
    what I see thru this blog is a group of people with very diverse opinions but with one uniting goal … freedom for Cuba.
    I remember a while back wondering (and mentioning) what could be done … ?
    And I’ve seen the efforts, the help and the willingness of the same people that disagree …
    This to me is the “back door”, this is to me the future …
    Let anyone care, Cuban or not … it always goes down to the basic premise … “the people”

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