Pennyless in Havana: The Story of GregorioJune 11, 2014 | Print |
Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — Gregorio has no money, not even enough to put food on his table. This is reflected in his mood. That’s why he never goes out; so that people won’t notice the dire financial straits he is in.
We haven’t heard from him in days, and I’m worried, because his wife visits us often. Our friendship dates back to 1970, when “Greggo” (that’s what we call him at home) and my father went off to cut sugar cane in the “10 Million Ton Harvest” campaign to earn a bit of money, try to win car, a trip to the former Soviet Union or another country of Europe’s socialist bloc, or even a house (which you got if you managed to cut over eleven million kilos of sugarcane).
During several harvests, Gregorio cut down enough sugarcane to earn the right to buy a fridge, an appliance he had to pay for with money from his salary (when Cuban salaries actual had value). He also received a number of work incentives: fifteen days at a beach in Varadero, a radio, invitations to big parties…what dream-filled times those! He never once imagined how difficult his life would be today. It’s a good thing he had some fun back then.
To find out what’s going on, I went over to Gregorio’s and asked him about his family. He tried to avoid the question and the answer. His wife finally answered, teary-eyed:
You know that “Greggo”, old as he is, has always worked to support the three of us. But he can’t do that as he used to anymore, his health doesn’t allow it. The doctor diagnosed him with a number of conditions and he really can’t keep doing the jobs he’d been doing till now. And those he can still do he must do very carefully.”
“The thing is that we haven’t had anything to eat for several days and I feel sorry for him. My health is also a real mess. Carlitos got paid only half his salary this month. You can imagine the situation we’re in, what with all of the medicine we have to buy, the electricity, phone and water bills, how expensive things are at the market – it’s impossible, we simply can’t go on like this. That’s why I haven’t being going over to your place these days.”
“Things are very difficult indeed,” I said. “We know about what you’re telling me at home. Yesterday, I bought some soy yogurt, I can give you two bags. Come over and get them when you have a chance. It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing.”
This is one of the many sad situations we see today: the lives of those who worked for the revolution and their families their whole lives and now not even their children are able to help them.