The Embarrassment of Being Invited in Your Own Home

Rosa Martinez

Figuring things out. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Only a real Cuban will understand this article; only somebody who has lived in Cuba over the past 20 years will know what I’m talking about.

How happy a family is when a relative arrives home who risked their life in violent Venezuela or their health in the African continent rife with exotic diseases.

How good it is when a son, brother, cousin returns, who has been living in Europe for a decade but doesn’t forget their family and comes loaded with the most unimaginable objects every year, things that only a Cuban would transport from one country to another.

Not to mention relatives in the United States, the ones who never stop feeling nostalgia for their beloved land, who feel so close yet so far. These are the same people who have maintained entire families for decades, providing impossible luxuries on an island that is becoming increasingly expensive.

How grateful we are for a simple change of clothes, which might be the simplest thing over there, but is almost a luxury here. Not to mention medicines which are sometimes in shortage, or only exist in pharmacies for tourists which nobody knows who thought to invent these, but they continue to widen the gap between the most powerful and ordinary Cubans every day.

But how embarrassing it is too when a friend from any country decides to bring a little something to help any Cuban family out, as they know that wages barely cover food expenses and “here a pair of tennis shoes don’t cost anything, we’re doing this from the heart,” like I was told once.

Embarrassment yes, and not because we don’t have things, because a hungry man can’t feel ashamed of their hunger if they work honestly every day, just like a sick person can’t feel ashamed of their disease, because nobody wishes for that.

Shame can even come with a damn cell phone (who invented this crap? I ask myself every day) because, in order to use it regularly, you need to ask this person that lives on the other side of the world, “could you send me a top up please.”

If I work all year round, I even have two jobs (aside from my domestic job which I don’t earn wages for), why is it then that I have to bother a relative, a friend or a simple acquaintance to help me out with a service which stopped being a luxury for the rest of the world centuries ago and is now an essential item.

Embarrassment comes with having to accept help from real friendships and knowing that they are sharing what is theirs out of the goodness of their hearts. This unsettling feeling can become anger, because what we really want to do is give instead of receive (at least sometimes) because we would like to invite others instead of being invited in our own homes…

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

13 thoughts on “The Embarrassment of Being Invited in Your Own Home

  • Rosa, do not feel any shame at any time for the dependence of Cubans upon others for a few small items which are regarded as luxuries in Cuba, but just part of everyday life in the capitalist countries. Any shame belongs to the Castro communist regime which for almost sixty long tedious years has denied Cubans the right to freedom and development of individual talents and abilities.
    If my wife who like you is involved in the higher levels of education, was living in North America (US and Canada), she would earn over 200 (two hundred) times her Cuban earnings. Cubans pay a high price for the much vaunted medical and educational systems.
    When my wife and I first knew each other, I asked her to never say “thank you” to me when I was paying for everyday items, paladars, transport, visits to trovas etc. To confine her thanks only for things like birthday or Christmas presents. I explained that because I by chance had been born in a capitalist country, I could afford all those things that Cubans are denied through enforced poverty. Yes, I also top up her cell-phone, but grit my teeth when doing so, being aware of the 27% shareholding that the Castro’s RAFIN SA holds in ETECSA.
    Yes Rosa, I understand your plight and your pain at being unable to afford even the smallest things for your children and I deeply admire your courage. Having a Cuban God-daughter who is only seven, I pray that she in her lifetime may know release from the iron grip of communism and experience the freedoms which those of us in the capitalist world enjoy.
    China, although still a one-party supposedly communist state, adopted capitalism and there has been an astonishing improvement in the lives of many (but not all) of them. But Cuban communism is based upon Stalinism and repression.
    Hold your head high Rosa! In the future, Cuba will need people like you!

    Reply
    • Carlyle: For many years I have heard the story about RAFIN SA actually being owned by the Castro family, thus them personally owning the 27% interest in ETECSA previously held by Telecom Italia. But I have never been able to determine if this is actually true or just another urban legend widespread by the internet.

      Do you have leads to some reliable sources that could either confirm or disprove the Castro’s family personal ownership of ETECSA?

      Reply
      • I can only respond Bob by saying that it has never been denied. It is factual that only when the Italians decided to sell that 27% shareholding, that RAFIN SA was formed. If it was intended that the 27% should be purchased by either the Government of Cuba (the PCC) or by GAESA, why form RAFIN SA?
        It is not possible within Cuba – as it is in the capitalist countries – to access information about ownership (which can be entering a maze) as it is assumed that the answer is either the State or GAESA and subsidiaries. For example, how does one check upon the ownership of Cayo Piedra and the properties upon the two islands? How does one check upon the ownership of Aquarama II? Where does Fidel Castro’s playboy son spending his time in the fleshpots of the Mediterranean get his money?
        Communism endeavors to keep closed doors – and often succeeds!

        Reply
  • “This unsettling feeling can become anger, because what we really want to do is give instead of receive (at least sometimes) because we would like to invite others instead of being invited in our own homes…”

    Those are powerful words and they put tears in my eyes all over again. This makes so much sense. I feel angry and hurt for you too.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment. It make me feel with strength to carry on.

      Reply
  • how I want to reach out and give you a big cuddle!

    from Australia…

    Reply
  • Rosa, I have never walked in your shoes as I am the other side of the equation. The closest I have come is a series of heart to heart talks about this situation with those who do walk in your shoes.

    We agreed our situation was one where each of us brought everything we had to the relationship. What was important was not what or how much we brought but the fact that we brought everything we had. Not only should we not try to compare one’s contributions to the other’s but that such would even be impossible if we tried given the totally differing nature of our contributions. We are at peace with our conclusions.

    Reply
  • My wife has sent a monthly “care” package to her family in Guantanamo for many years. In addition, she has constantly sent money through a variety of money transfer services as well as with other trusted Cubans visiting the island. Her family includes a grandfather who is a retired lawyer, a father and mother, both civil engineers with masters degrees and a schoolteacher sister. Although highly educated, this family cluster would live significantly worse and be forced to engage in far more desperate measures in order to survive. As it is, in addition to the obvious benefit of just a few hundred dollars a month, the care package often includes shampoo, lotions, food seasonings, shoes, clothing,and various other sundries. Nothing of real value (at least not to us) because on more than a few occasions the package didn’t make it to its destination. One can only imagine the effects of this kind of dependence on the self-esteem of those who receive this package. In the moment there is, as Rosa writes, gratitude. But as some point the shame and embarrassment surfaces. It strains honest conversations, even among the closest family members. The embarrassed Rosa writes about not only affects the Cuban recipients who receive the help. It also touches those of us who give the help. It causes us to be ever careful with our criticism of the smallest disagreement with family. We want to avoid giving off the impression that our support is contingent upon something other than need. This is the reality of Cuba.

    Reply
  • Thank you Moses for a touching description of a very delicate subject.
    There is much similarity between us, for I not only support my wife and her daughter – a lawyer, but purchased homes and made improvements to them for my mother-in-law and the parents of my god-daughter who now have two more children (to me that is reward).
    As I once explained in these pages before, I emphasized prior to marriage to my wife that apart from presents for her birthday and Christmas, she should never thank me, explaining that I have the good fortune to have been born in a capitalist country with all the benefits that accrue. When purchasing homes for the others, I emphasized that they could say “thank-you” only once.
    Although intensely loyal to their country, la familia are also entitled to retain some individual pride.
    By making return trips home to Cuba and my wife similarly making return trips from Cuba, we manage to avoid trying to send anything via Cuba Correa. Our experience was that even if a mere letter arrived, it took months and was opened by the customs.
    It is terrible and a reflection of the repression that is now endemic in Cuba, that intelligent, well educated professional people have to scratch and scrape to exist. But communism has no conscience, nor do those who impose it!

    Reply
  • Having my closest family members in Guantanamo as Rosa, I understand every bit of her feelings and needs. Every time I visit Cuba my heart breaks because of the unnecessary pain and suffering the people endure, for reasons most people in and out Cuba do not understand.

    Cuba imposed tight military measures, freedom of speech and movement in 1960 to protect itself from undeniable outside aggression of every type. Guantanamo suffered most than the rest of the country because of its proximity with GITMO. What is sad and devastating, are measures such as keeping Caimanera and boqueron off-limits and having thousands of men guarding the periphery of GITMO for a war that fortunately has not materialized in half a century, these decisions have remained frozen in time and Guantanamo is today the most backward, forgotten and undeveloped area in Cuba.

    Up until 1959, thousands of Cubans worked on GITMO, hundreds of US service men lived with their families in Guantanamo and unfortunately US service men on shore leave, turned Guantanamo into the largest Red Light District in Cuba.

    For that reason, some of our readers may recall my position of being different from most since day one, which has been twofold, to help my community through humanitarian support with medicine, medical and handicap supplies, environmental projects, school pen pals, feeding programs in church and nursing homes, leading tours of predominantly Afro Americans and Caribbean citizens living in the US to Cuba, enable them to establish links and bond with their peers and common history.

    I have avoided confronting both the Cuban and American government actions and choose to highlight their failures every time I can.

    My recent visit to Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam and Hong Kong restored my faith, hopes and conviction that change, development and happiness is possible. Please read in HT, The future of Cuba lies in Asia HT 130762 and A Doi Moi or Renovation for Cuba, HT 131931.

    Having experienced the human tragedy on both side of the Florida Straits derived from material needs in Cuba and the anxiety of parents in the United States where no one can assure parents their kids will be returning from school, or millions of retirees are barely surviving on fixed income, the lack of health insurance and addictions plaguing the nation or the endless police brutality against Black and Latino youths with impunity demonstrates, we ought to find a middle ground in which, the basic needs of Cubans are met, while thousands of idle or underutilized educators, healthcare providers, sports and cultural instructors, can educate our kids in gun and drug free Cuba.

    Nor should we accept without trying, that millions of acres of undeveloped lands remain idle in Cuba, while millions of retirees can barely survive and are afraid to go to the grocery store.

    Viet Nam has thought me important lesson on how they overcome the horrors that China, Japan, France and the United States inflicted on their people. We too, can begin to look forward without forgetting the past.

    Reply
    • Although I think that Dr. Jones and I differ politically, he is correct that both China and Vietnam have made massive steps forward economically by adopting capitalism and that Fidel Castro as a Stalinist type communist heavily criticized Vietnam for so doing.
      The Castro regime and the Communist Party of Cuba are locked in to antiquated Marxism/Leninism 19th century constipated thinking. “Change” is not possible! Diaz-Canel has committed himself to “continuity” of the Castro thinking – he knows nothing else! Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba illustrated the depth of the problem, when only seven days following his televised speech at the Alicia Alonso Theatre, both Granma and State TV published a letter purported to be by the failing ( maybe mentally failed) Fidel Castro repudiating any idea of compromise about anything.
      As long as the current communist regime in Cuba retains power and control, Stalin lives!

      In 1921 Lenin said: “The victory of the workers is impossible without a temporary worsening of their situation.”
      In 1922, Lenin purchased a Rolls Royce car for his own use for eighteen hundred pounds sterling.

      So nothing is different in Cuba, Raul and Fidel with their fleet of cars, Fidel with his two island retreat and yacht Aquarama II, Raul with his diplomatic image change to hand-tailored suits and silk ties!
      Being a Jesuit, Fidel adopted as policy the Biblical quote: ”Unto those that hath, shall be given.”

      Reply
  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Esthela

    Reply

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