Cuban Women between Poverty and Emigration
Cuban Women between Poverty and Emigration
March 9, 2015
Carlos Cabrera Perez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Regardless of where they live or what ideology they
subscribe to, many Cuban women shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility
and work owing to the island’s widespread poverty, the difficulties
involved in leaving the country and settling on foreign soil and the
deeply-rooted male chauvinism of contemporary Cuban society.
Cuba endures the dysfunctional situation of having many single-mother
families with fathers who are either absent or unreliable, where
grandmothers, mothers and daughters have been responsible for
maintaining the little ones and keeping the onslaught of poverty at bay.
Among Cuban émigrés – particularly those who left Cuba as a result of
the economic crisis of the 1990s, a crisis which persists in many ways –
many women have had to shoulder the responsibility and the burden of
supporting their closest relatives and helping their relatives on the
island financially, where possible.
Though there are no official statistics on this, finding and securing a
job that affords good income, stability and wellbeing has been an upward
climb for most men who have emigrated from Cuba; women, many of them
without papers, have instead worked as maids, waitresses and nurses for
the elderly and the chronically ill at hospitals ad homes, while all the
while caring for their husbands and children, if they have these.
Cuba’s so-called jineteras (prostitutes), condemned by much of the
island’s hypocritical society (at home and abroad), have not only been
forced to become their family’s main source of income – some of them
have had to do this at an age when many girls are dreaming of owning a
pretty doll or finding prince charming.
What’s more, many Cuban women who have left the country by marrying a
foreigner (for convenience’s sake and not), have had to endure the
changes involved in adapting to the norms and customs of a radically
different society and even a fair degree of discrimination and
mistreatment from their husband’s close relatives and friends.
For years, the Castro regime has played the macabre game of conveying
the image of a happy, sensual, unprejudiced island, launching tourism
campaigns showing rum, mulatto women, maracas and other things that
exist only in these advertisements.
Cuban Women from Cuba
As a result of these misleading images, no few Cuban women have had to
suffer and deal with offensive sexual remarks, coming from nasty types
who don’t even dare say anything to women in their own countries and
regularly seek out prostitutes.
Many Cuban women who are living abroad and do not fit the pre-fabricated
image of Cuba that many foreigners have been fed smilingly tell of the
confused look many of these ignorant people get when they tell them they
are Cuban. In some cases, this is met with a common, stupid question:
“But, are you a Cuban from Cuba?”
This can help us grasp the injustice and suffering many Cuban mulatto
and black women have suffered during these years of hunger, lack of
freedom and plundering by foreign men. In certain circles in Spain, for
instance, it’s common to hear men say they prefer foreign women because
they are “more submissive” than Spanish ones.
Their plight, in addition to being unjust and typical of a
male-chauvinistic society, has much to do with the new vanguard role
that women in free and developed societies are playing, inverting
traditional roles and intimidating many men – more so than any real
passion for foreign women, whom they look down on because they earn less
than they do, and consider helpless, because they are far away from home.
When time passes and passions cool off, Cuba will have to pay due
tribute to its women, no matter what their political stances or
geographic locations are. This tribute would have to include the
island’s jineteras and those who married foreigners to try and offer
their families a better life (though many have achieved this, not that
way, but through their talents and skills).
A systemic economic crisis like Cuba’s leads to poverty and
marginalization. This crisis has been particularly tough on women, who
have rolled up their sleeves and faced up to adversity with more
determination than many men.
For instance, a woman who supports the Castro regime still has to
shoulder the responsibility of looking after her family and devoting
special attention to her children and grandchildren. Some are widows or
have been alone for years, because their husbands, who are also
supporters of the Castro regime, left them and started a new family,
left the country or lost themselves in alcohol and other vices.
A structural crisis such as the one endured by capitalism owing to the
unjust excesses of the financial oligarchy generates more poverty and
inequality, hitting immigrant workers (and especially women) most of all.
There are of course exceptions everywhere. There are marriages and
couples who have worked together to face up to the adversity of living
in an impoverished Cuba, marked by emigration, misunderstanding, and who
have been happy to be able to help their fathers, mothers, grandparents
and the children they had in earlier relationships. This, however, has
not freed women from specific burdens that men do not have to shoulder.
Needless to say, the official discourse and rose-colored tall-tales
heard on Women’s Day in Cuba and other places around the world will omit
the injustices that many women still endure – in many cases, these women
will be considered satisfied, because these countries meet certain
precepts advanced by the United Nations and other international entities.
Many years ago, humanity discovered that statistics can be used to prove
one thing and its exact opposite. As such, the problem has nothing to do
with conventions and treaties, but with something as simple as
acknowledging the inequality of men and women, an inequality that always
works against women. Changing this would need nothing less than a
revolution and, regrettably, the times are not ripe for one.
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Source: Cuban Women between Poverty and Emigration – Havana Times.org –