Saturday, June 27, 2009

Communication breakdown at the Capitol

The other day I was waiting for Orlando at the Capitol building. I got there ten minutes early, so I sat down on the steps to pass the time. It was a very intense few minutes; I witnessed two discussions about money, one of them quite outrageous and in two languages.

One of the photographers who uses a box camera to take pictures of tourists was trying to get 2 CUCs from a man who apparently had stolen them. That guy slipped away some how and he then threw himself at a tourist whose photo he’d taken. He spoke no English and she spoke no Spanish. He shouted he hadn’t received his money and she answered that she’d given him 3 CUCs, but they didn’t understand each other and repeated the same things over and over. It ended with some guys trying unsuccessfully to get the foreigners to pay for some caricatures they’d drawn on the spur of the moment without asking, which apparently they didn’t like and didn’t want to pay for.

I can’t help, at times, feeling a deep shame for all of us: the Cubans begging the tourists to pay them for some work they’ve come up with, because the State doesn't really pay them; and the tourists playing the naïve victims who don’t understand anything. I keep seeing TV spots that talk about us as if we were scum. There’s one in particular that bothers me, in which Fidel and Raúl and others are in the Sierra walking around with rifles on their shoulders. Then a voice-over says, “They gave everything… and you? What have you done? Then work!” Or something of that sort, fortunately I don’t know it by heart. For me, the truth as I see it is: we won’t do anything until they pay us… it’s so logical it seems like a joke.

When foreigners ask me if it’s true that Cubans don’t like to work I simply say: Would you work 8 hours a day for 20 dollars a month, or for 30, or 50 or even 100? I’ve never received a positive response.


Michael said...

"and the tourists playing the naïve victims who don’t understand anything".
Unfortunately too many tourists are getting very tired of the same old 'Cuba scams", many being repeated by a new generation of "locals" who really do think these tourists are naive enough to buy them. OK Some are! But many tourists have the experience of dealing with touts in many countries as they travel while Cubans, again unfortunately, don't get to travel abroad to see how lame their scams are-notably:
-the old "milk for my baby" scam. Habaneros have been trying this one on me for over 13 years.
-the "have you got a pencil" scam. At least as old.
-the "my wife just had a baby! Buy me a drink" scam.
-the "the university only has one book for my whole class to study so give me money for a book" scam.
-and my favorite "hey, gimme a buck"
Sometimes, when you see a Cuban arguing with a tourist, consider that it's not the Cuban who is getting ripped off.

La Polémica said...

Hey wen you have a chanse put a (share) button please,
nice site....

Octavo Cerco / English said...

Hi La Polemica -- can you tell me how to put the share button on the bottom of the posts? I've looked everywhere and I can't find it. I see it's on the Spanish-language site though. I'll ask Claudia too, but it might be faster to ask you! Email to and from Cuba isn't always that fast!
English Translator