Under Fidel Castro’s forty year communist rule, life in Cuba has presented many complexities including the interpersonal relationships within the most basic unit of the society - the family. Under El Líder, situations that led to break-up of families arose due to differences in ideology resulting from the effects of his rule and economic hardships. Authors of different books have put these matters into perspective to mirror the lives of common Cubans living in the country while at the same time juxtaposing the lives of Cubans elsewhere in the world. One of the works that explicitly draws light on the typical Cuban family life during the rule of Fidel Castro is Dreaming in Cuban byChristina Garcia.
The economic status of the common Cubans and society at large was significantly affected by the revolution and the subsequent Castro government. The Marxist socialism ideology brought with it economic hardships that were hitherto not witnessed. It is these economic conditions that defined the Cuban society and are the basis of a glaring difference in the quality of living between Cuba and her neighbor, the United States of America.
The economic condition of an average Cuban and their standard of living are significantly different from those in America. A Cuban living in Miami, just two hour’s drive from Havana, on average spends more on their daily meals than the average Cuban in Havana earns in a month. In the short story Nina, the young Nina has to live with a hole in the stomach that is treatable since her parents, who seem resigned to their fate, cannot afford to take her to the hospital. The members of the society exhibit a high level of care for one another but are all so impoverished that none is in a position to offer any help. Instead they choose to surrender and rely on fate. Nina herself seems unperturbed by failure to be accorded medical care. Apparently, living under the harsh economic conditions has made the Cubans immune to their economic hardships. Cubans must contend with the standards of living set forth by the revolutionary government and have to largely depend on the meager rations provided by the government. In general, the Cuban’s extraordinary levels of resilience and inventiveness enable them to survive in a country where everything is in short supply (Encyclopedia Britanica).
The introduction of Marxist socialism brought with it the limitations in ownership of property. Previously wealthy individuals were reduced to dire poverty when the revolutionary regime seized their property. Such is the fate that befalls Rufino Puente, a rich landowner before the revolution, when his hacienda is seized by the government two years after the revolution in Dreaming in Cuban. Unable to stand life in his new social status, Rufino is forced to seek exile in the United States. The formerly rich individuals find it extremely hard to start their life from scratch as Rufino, who was born in an affluent family. However, he never makes a success. Exiles from the lower stratum of the society like Lourdes, Puente’s wife, however, take advantage of the economic opportunities in America to establish lucrative enterprises. Lourdes is, therefore, able to support her family, an issue that would have been a big challenge in her native country due to limitation of free enterprise.
The differences in economic conditions between Cuba and the United States are further exhibited by the fact that, in America, one’s career is based usually by their choice while in the Castro Cuba, the career is usually out of necessity. In Virgil Suarez’s A Perfect Hotspot, Tonio would rather work as a life guard, but he is forced by circumstances to sell ice-cream in a defaced truck, a job he abhors. His father, however, is aware of the hardships of Tonio’s life, but is not able to accept what life has to offer and continues to live in a utopia. The father is himself nostalgic about the pre-revolution days but understands the need for seeking out a living..
Notwithstanding the dire economic hardships, people living in Cuba exhibit a great care and affection for each other, and the society is much more closely knit than it is in the USA. In Nina villagers have no qualms with the narrator, bursting into their homes and invading into their privacy something that the narrator herself observes as odd since she had been brought up in America. The ailing Nina cares for the narrator’s feelings so much that she has to confront a convoy of soldiers. The citizens of Cuba prove that though residing in the country means going without luxuries, it does not curtail the social relationships nor their happiness (Faber, 2012). Celia del Pino, one of the most important characters inDreaming in Cuban is romantic and takes pleasure in music.
Cubans are among the happiest and friendliest nations who are proud of whatever achievements they have made in particular their high literacy rate. The common man’s support for the revolution has never waned, and they still find happiness in life. They accept their situation as whatever shortage of supplies is there, it is as a result of their choice, a choice many do not regret (Leonard, 1999). Life in the United states, however, is typical to that of many developed countries where one hardly knows their next-door neighbors. It is a direct contrast to the Cuban way of life (Benjamin, 1992).
The political differences situation in Cuba and the United States have a large influence on the lives of the residents of the two countries. It is worth noting that the impact of the differences in political ideologies of family members is immense. Differences in ideology, are one of the key aspects that cause the sour relationship between Celia, an ardent supporter of the revolution, and her daughter Lourdes who supports American capitalism to the extent that the two are never able to reconcile later in life. It is such differences that cause a big rift between Javier and his father that eventually cause him to move to Czechoslovakia without informing his father. It is important to note that he opts to migrate to a country whose ideologies match his (Myant, 1989). In the United States, ideological differences do not play such a major role for the family as seen in the lives of Pilar, who has adopted the Punk sub-cultural ideology and her mother who does not support it. When clients in Celia’s bakery protest over the punk version of the statue of liberty that Pilar paints, Celia stands by her daughter though, at a personal level, she does not support the painting.
Clearly, there are distinct differences between life in Cuba and the United States. The standards of living in the two countries are as different as they can be, the fact that the two are geographically close. The main differences are found in socio-political and economic policies adopted by the countries’ respective governments. The solutions to the problems also vary as depicted in Dreaming in Cuban by Felicia who turns to religion when life becomes unbearable and Pilar who opts to take up punk lifestyle. There is a hope for improvements as the differences, especially in the standards of living, will narrow down in the future as communist countries drift away from radical Marxism (World Bank, 2006). The optimism is hinted atin Dreaming in Cuban implying that the third generation is able to freely connect with one another, notwithstanding their differences in ideologies.