Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For 3 CUCs

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Maité works for the Office of the Historian in Old Havana. She’s a museum guard, working Monday to Friday from eight in the morning to six at night, and Saturdays until one. She earns about 350 pesos a month and if she does nothing wrong, is never late and never sick, she receives 10 CUCs along with her salary as an incentive wage.

Entry into the museum is free, although there is a small box where foreigners who feel solidarity with the restoration work of Eusebio Leal can leave something to show their support. Every week a team of collectors goes through the museums and takes the money, which comes in at higher and higher levels.

But Maité’s salary is not enough to live on; sometimes more insightful tourists come into the museum and give her money and it helps a little with the day-to-day. She knows the risks, if the directors of the museum see her taking the tourists’ money, even though they gave it to her, she would be punished or fired from the center (the established rules are clear that one cannot accept ANYTHING from the visitors).

One day she had bad luck, from the floor above the director saw the 3 CUCs given to her and the terrible thing Maité did with them: straight to her pocket.

They didn’t throw her out (the director was kind): they elevated her ‘case’ to personal, had a meeting with all the workers and the union to call public attention to it, fined her salary for four months and made her work in another museum as an assistant cleaner.

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