This is the real Cuba. The one nobody tells you about
Share this article:
OPINION - PATRIA y Vida ( Homeland and Life) is a popular pro-democracy song by Cuban artists Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona and Yotuel that is going viral in the Cuban community outside of Cuba.
Even here in South Africa, among the very small Cuban expat community, it is a song that is taking off like wildfire and inspiring us to push for change inside our country.
The story of life inside Cuba is hard to tell without one getting angry or breaking out in tears.
Many South Africans know Cuba as the land of free medical care, free education, safety, and freedom of expression.
But speaking honestly, it is a lie.
The world believes that our country has the best medical care - as in the First World countries.
We have yet to see a single hospital with medicine, proper beds, clean toilets, and the latest medical equipment and technology.
If you compare a hospital in Cuba with a rural hospital in South Africa, you'd be horrified.
We have been told that there's no violence in Cuba. As tourists you feel safe, but for a Cuban, it's another story.
As a Cuban, you cannot speak freely and publicly against the government nor listen to specific music related to freedom or anything controversial.
We cannot even listen to musicians who decide to live outside of the country, as their music is prohibited as well.
If you do the above, the police give you with a heavy fine or you find yourself arrested if you disagree.
In fact, the government calls people who get married to individuals from another country jinetero (prostitute) .
There are online videos of a disabled elderly gentleman being forcefully taken away by top police officers because he complained there was no food in a shop.
A woman being kicked by a policeman in front of many people - who have been waiting in a long queue from the early hours of the morning to buy chicken - is amongst other incidents captured by mobile phone footage.
On the subject of food, I wish I could say we have a McDonald's or a KFC or a Hungry Lion outlet, or even a flea market with different fruits and vegetables that are affordable for even the lowest of income earners.
The government promised an increase in salaries to some citizens and even indicated that private business and investments were going to be allowed. But this has not been seen on the ground.
The cost of living is extremely high. The prices of goods, fuel, water/electricity is beyond expensive.
Let's for example work on the lowest income a Cuban may get, which is roughly R800 a month.
Now let's look at the price of food in the shops: 1kg of rice is around R200, 100g of potato is about R100.
That is just for two basic products.
How does one feed a family - in many cases extended families - when the price of food is so high? How does one stretch that R800 for the whole month?
The average citizen cannot afford the basic necessities.
The fact of the matter is that even if you have lots of money, there is just no food in Cuba to buy.
People are going hungry every day.
Many shops are closed because they have nothing to sell to the public.
The government has gone as far as giving extremely high fines to citizens selling anything, such as vegetables, to the hungry community.
If you complain you get arrested. (Talk about the freedom to open a business!!)
On the aspect of tourism, there's discrimination against the Cuban people. The average income-earner is not allowed to go to Varadero, a great tourist attraction. Even with money, a Cuban is not allowed to associate with tourists in some places. At this present moment, a citizen needs a special pass to walk within certain places of the city.
The facts are there; the people are tired of the oppression.
Sixty- two years, on and the country is worse off than in the economic crisis of 1992.
The new song Patria y Vida by Cuban artists has stirred up suppressed emotions and given people new strength - that our country needs to fight for its freedom and end the dictatorship once and for all.
Our people are slowly waking up to a new day coming. A time of a new transition is approaching.
The movement San Isidrio, the EU, Cuban-Canadians and Cuban-Americans are fighting on behalf of our people back home.
To give them hope, and to let them know “united as one we can be liberated”.
Nelson Mandela fought for South Africa to be free and is an icon to many people worldwide.
Let us all unite in solidarity for our brothers and sisters of our abandoned but not forgotten, beautiful land of Cuba. #PatriayVida
The author is a Cuban living in South Africa. She does not want her name published, fearing victimisation of relatives still living in Cuba.