Cuban youth live for today because tomorrow is too uncertain
YOANDY IZQUIERDO TOLEDO
Special for In Cuba Today
PINAR DEL RÍO
Laura is studying medicine but is not convinced she’ll be able to
practice in Cuba after she graduates. Marco is getting ready for his
university studies but dreams of starting his own business. And Beatriz,
a student at the National School of Arts, loves music but feels a
distance with Cuban music.
The three, like many young Cubans, face an existential uncertainty that
makes them wonder about their future time and time again.
“I see my future in Cuba as very cloudy. I can’t focus on what I want to
do. The only thing I can do is to set a goal, and when I reach it, wait
to see what happens,” said Laura.
Laura, Marco and Beatriz are part of the so-called “disconnected
generation” — Cubans born between 1990 and 2010 who did not experience
the triumphant early years of the revolution but suffer its effects more
than half a century later.
It is a disconnect that can sometimes leave them without long-term
goals, without concern for the impact of their personal decisions on
relatives or society. As many young Cubans put it: “to live in my own
space day to day.”
“I don’t feel that I identify or connect with this society because there
are many people for whom the only thing that is defined is the concept
of ‘revolution.’ But I don’t think they know what revolution really
means,” said Sara, 16, a high school student. “Revolution exists in
every country. … I respect that there are many forms of thinking that
are different from mine, and I would like for that respect to be mutual.”
Although many Cubans are “disconnected,” the country’s young people best
illustrate the problem. Most of them don’t have or don’t want any
long-term plans. They don’t see themselves living in Cuba in the
immediate future and see leaving as the way out of economic problems and
other struggles facing the country. They identify with the the fuga
mundi — flight from the world — that Cuba is currently experiencing.
Emmanuel Márquez, an 18-year-old just starting medical school, is
already asking himself essential questions about his future as a doctor,
saying that the only physicians who prosper in Cuba “are those who go on
foreign assignments, even if they are not paid what they should receive
because of the risks they run abroad.” He says his idea is “to study
until the end, hoping that ‘this’ changes. If it doesn’t, if I get
jammed up, I would go on a foreign assignment.”
For young Cubans, the answer to the internal crisis is often to escape,
sometimes with a clear idea of what they want to do in another country,
but other times just to try their luck because of the perception that
life almost anywhere is better than on the island. Some describe this as
a culture of immediacy and inward thinking, focused on solving today’s
problem without thinking about tomorrow.
Marco A. Márquez, 17, brother of Emmanuel, who will start his university
studies next year, said he has not yet decided on a career.
“My future depends not only on my career but also my projections in
several respects,” Marco said. “In addition to a career, I also would
like to have a private business like a restaurant, a bar or a cafeteria.
But if things don’t change in Cuba, I don’t see a future here.”
The rebellious spirit of youth is a strength, and properly channeled
could break the inertia that blocks all kinds of change, experts said.
The desire to play a role, to stand out, are the sparks that could
breathe life into community projects in sports, culture and other areas.
Antonio Rodriguez, a Cuban Catholic priest, has said that a mature
society requires “a responsible and creative participation in social
interactions and interpersonal relations, without caving in to
conformity and generalizations.”
When chatting with many young Cubans, it’s easy to see that they are
more inclusive when it comes to sexual orientation, ethnic background,
religion and politics. They greatly value transparency and open minds,
and constantly search for authenticity and not a model based on the
premise of “do as I say and not as I do.”
That need to be authentic, to be different from others, to search for
new things rather than follow dogma, carries with it a preference for
new trends beyond Cuba. That becomes clear when they are asked about
their preferences on music, movies, sports and other issues.
Lorena Torres, a 16-year-old student, says that in her free time she
likes to listen to foreign music, watch movies and sports teams. “I love
pop, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, One Direction. Spanish movies and TV
series are my favorites, and I like soccer. My favorite team is Barcelona.”
Beatriz, the art student, says she likes Cuban music, “but also many
Latin American musicians and American music … I love it. What happens to
me with Cuban music is that the message and the vocabulary sometimes is
not in tune with my musical ear.”
Another obvious strength among Cuba’s youths is their entrepreneurial
spirit. In practically every neighborhood in provinces across the
island, one can easily see that the majority of workers in the emerging
private sector are young. In those small and medium-sized businesses,
they have found the space to fill a yearning while also earning a higher
income than what state jobs offer.
Luis, a 21-year-old hairdresser who earned a technical license, is an
example of the reality of many youths in today’s Cuba.
“I studied, but you quickly come to realize that you can’t live on a
minimum salary. So you launch a business that you love and which you
hope will help make a better life for yourself [even though] there are
many regulations and permits,” he said. “I consider myself a prisoner in
my own country, because I am here working in this beauty salon but my
mind is with my family in the United States.”
SOME OF THE YOUNG CUBANS INTERVIEWED FOR THIS REPORT ASKED TO REMAIN
ANONYMOUS BECAUSE OF FEARS OF REPRISALS.
Source: Cuban youth live for today because tomorrow is too uncertain |
In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article108205292.html