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Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

Where Should Cubans Go Now?

May 22, 2013 | Print Print |

Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez

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Photo: http://globalrose.com/

HAVANA TIMES — As Mother’s Day nears each year, floral arrangement companies in Miami hire thousands of unemployed or low-income persons for a term of about two weeks.

These assembly lines are places where people work hard and earn very little. The reason for this is that they are hired by intermediaries, employment agencies with which these companies have agreements. This reduces their salaries by about a third.

I saw elderly women and ill people make immense efforts just to complete their work shift, for eight dollars an hour. I worked next to them at an assembly line that would stop only every three or four hours of uninterrupted labor, at temperatures as low as 6 degrees Celsius.

Not exactly the American Dream.

In the extreme temperatures of these warehouses, under the excessive demand for productivity, many of us Cubans recalled our days of servile work back in Cuba. Here, we toiled under the authoritarian imperative of personal profit, there under the authoritarian imperative of the common good.

- Did we come to Miami for this?

The filthy corners of the workplace, the rudimentary work instruments, the disorganization and confrontations between employees and supervisors: these are work conditions not too dissimilar from those that many of us Cubans working in Miami had tolerated at factories back in Cuba.

Differences in the work conditions that prevail in Cuba and Miami do exist, unquestionably. Denying this would be an affront on the age-old common sense of immigrants from around the world.

But these differences are too flimsy to sustain the social and economic hopes of people who spent a good part of their lives dreaming of the advantages that a new life in North America would bring them.

Hopes that dissolve in the boundless demands of competitive Capital and the vulnerability of non-unionized work which is the lot of latinos working in the United States.

So, where do we go now?

A new, or perhaps old concern emerges among the young in Miami’s Cuban community, a sense of uncertainty that intensifies in the awareness that, for most, Cuba is beyond the horizon of possible destinations now.


What's your opinion?

  • Victor Lar

    Welcome to America

  • Raydel

    Well, capitalism is quite ruthless if you don’t climb up the ladder. Going back to Cuba is always possible. I know that well because I reapplied for residency over there and was issued a carné de identidad again after 13 years outside of the country. Perhaps the best approach would be to work temporarily in the United States and go back to Cuba. I can’t endure those low-paying jobs all year long, but they would help me have some peace if I spent the second half of the year in Cuba. In fact, many Cubans holding Spanish passports do come here to work for 90 days and head back home with some hard currency that allows them to stay afloat for a whole year…

  • Victor Lar

    Tony Montana:
    I didn’t come to the United States to break my back.

  • emagicmtman

    “Go West, young man, go West!” …Horace Greely, in his paper, The NEW YORK TRIBUNE, c. 1865. I’d advise getting out of Florida, the land of the minimum wage and so-called “right-to-work” (i.e. right to be exploited by the boss) laws. If you can stand the cold, go North, or to the Left Coast, or anywhere the labor market is more favorable. Of course having the right skills–or acquiring them–helps. Those Cuban mechanics who have managed to keep those 1950’s cars on the road would have a license to print money if they migrated North (of course, even here they’d have to update their skills by learning the latest computer generated diagnostics)!