Cuba, Remittances, and Scrooge McDuck
Cuba, Remittances, and Scrooge McDuck / Ivan Garcia
Posted on June 12, 2015
Ivan Garcia, 10 June 2015 — A week before her Miami relatives landed in
Havana, Milena hired a crew to paint the interior and the facade of her
home in the bucolic Casino Deportivo neighborhood.
After two coats of paint and minor touch-ups on the walls, they did a
thorough cleaning, and just above the door they placed a chain made of
silver paper with a Welcome Home sign.
“My cousins haven’t come to Cuba for twenty years. We want to give them
a reception in style. Thanks to the little money that they’ve sent us,
we fixed up the entire house,” says Milena.
It’s understood in every other country that the host pays for the
entertainment. But Cuba is a different story. For Gisela, a hairdresser,
having relatives abroad is more than a blessing.
“I was able to start my business with the dollars that my daughter
provided me. Everything I have—a 42-inch-flat-screen, a computer, a
mobile phone, and air conditioning—I bought with the money she sent.
Sometimes I’m assailed by a doubt: what if we Cubans didn’t have family
outside?” Gisela wonders.
Well, they would fare very badly. Take for example Felix, a six-foot
tall Afro-Cuban. He has no relatives abroad and has only seen euros and
dollars in the movies on Saturday night.
He is the father of four children who barely gets by doing informal
masonry work. “I don’t receive remittances and nobody sends me food
parcels, clothing, or medicine. I have to fend for myself,” he says
frankly, while drinking cheap beer in a dirty state-owned bar on October
Citizens like Felix are in the minority. According to some analysts,
slightly more than 60% of all Cubans have a relative or friend abroad
who regularly sends money or packages.
The average person calls this kind of help “throwing a Hail Mary.” In a
nation where the average monthly wage is $23 (you would need six
lifetimes to pay for a car, and repairing or furnishing a house is a
true luxury) it is not reprehensible that migrants help their poor
relatives on the island.
What is alarming is the brazenness. At the first opportunity, a large
segment of Cubans send tweets, emails, or collect calls, urgently
pleading for money from their relatives in exile.
“What nerve. Every month I sent a hundred dollars to an aunt and two
cousins. When I could, I provided them household necessities. But a
while back, my relatives started asking me for more money, using any
pretext—to celebrate a daughter’s fifteenth birthday or to buy a toilet.
In Cuba they think that the Cubans who live abroad are rich. I have to
break my back working just to make a decent living,” said a Havanan
living in Florida.
Aquino, a truck driver from Pinar de Rio who lives in New York,
describes his experience. “I went twelve years without visiting my
family. Truthfully, most Cubans ’throw it in your face’ (are
inconsiderate). All they want to do is talk about their problems and ask
you for money and things. I gave my niece a mobile phone and she
disrespectfully told me that it was already an old model, that she likes
the Samsung Galaxy. Young people don’t want just any cell phone or
tablet, they want the latest model. They’re ungrateful,” he says.
The culture of hustling goes beyond prostitution. Many Cubans are
convinced that their relatives are rolling in dough. So it is therefore
OK to ask for whatever they want. Some make small requests: disposable
diapers or jeans. Others believe that their family member is a real life
version of Scrooge McDuck.
And they make plans at the expense of relatives living abroad. “Look
what my nephew came up with. He wanted me to give him ten or twelve
thousand dollars to buy an almendrón (classic American car) and turn it
into a taxi. It’s amazing the number of people in Cuba who are clueless.
They don’t know that almost all Cubans living abroad work two or three
jobs to be able to pay the rent and debts. They aren’t satisfied with
anything. They always want more without lifting a finger,” says Osvaldo,
who lives in Tampa.
A considerable part of Castro’s military-controlled economy is designed
to be borne by Cuban emigrants. The prices in the shops have
unbelievable taxes aimed at capturing foreign currency. And the airport
and postal tariffs could cause heart attacks.
The State and many Cubans milk their families like cows. And if they
previously begged them for food, clothing, toiletries, and medicines,
they now want them to pay absurd charges for everything from passport
renewals to cell phone recharges. Not to mention pleas for
next-generation smartphones, usually used as status symbols.
Natasha, employed in a commercial office of ETECSA, says that “80% of
the money for recharging hours on cell phones in Cuba is paid for by
relatives or friends living in other countries. ETECSA is one of the
agencies that benefits most from the former gusanos (worms),” she says
More than one Cuban living abroad has asked when and how their relatives
became leeches, sucking on the wallets of their families in other countries.
“One answer could be because of the perennial shortages suffered by the
Cuban people for 56 years. But the real answer is Fidel Castro. He is
guilty of perverting the Cuban people, creating the mindset of squeezing
the exiles. In 1980 he invented the acts of repudiation against those
who left from Mariel, calling them scum and saying he was glad they were
getting the hell out. They’re not going to screw me over any more with
such perversion. I wouldn’t think about returning to Cuba,” said an
obviously upset Cuban American visiting Havana.
The economic disaster and cyclical hardships created by the Castro
regime have spawned a breed of beggars. And scoundrels. By day they
pretend to support the government and by night they make a call to
Miami. After telling their tale of woe, they ask for money or things.
It’s the easiest thing.
Source: Cuba, Remittances, and Scrooge McDuck / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba –