Miriam is a chemical engineer, but she is working in a hotel in the exclusive Miramar district, where embassies, diplomat residences and some of the new Cuban enterprises with foreigners are decorating its landscape. As a chemical engineer, the dream of her entire life, she couldn’t live a decent life, and with a small daughter life felt as hell: she is a single parent.
But Miriam was a woman without fears and unstoppable. She put her dreams in her draws and her chemical engineer diploma in the first garbage bin she found the day she realized that with her miserable salary she couldn’t afford a young child, and give her a decent life.
First, she sold cigars to tourists and Cuban-Americans visiting the country, but her purpose was to find the way to enter the lucrative tourist industry, and not through the long way: she bought the diploma approved by the government to allow her to work in any hotel desk. After all, there is nothing money could not afford in Cuba.
She bought the diploma, she bought the job opportunity in one of the luxuries hotels in Miramar and she bought the registration of her daughter in one of the schools nearby her job. She realized she couldn’t and she shouldn’t allow her daughter to share with the same children where she is living today.
Her little house gives her not too much protection, and her backyard is in the very border of one of the most violent slums Havana exhibits in this XXI Century: El Palenque. Settled in the surroundings of one of the most iconic Hospitals Cuba shows, Havana Orthopaedic Hospital Frank Pais, El Palenque is a slum populated with marginal Cubans: nothing there is obtained with a legal hand, and police never attempt to cross the railway that is on her backyard fence proximity. Beyond that line, it is unabashed territory to marginality and violence of any kind.
Miriam had bought with the money obtained from tourists and selling cigars in her hotel, all the electronic paraphernalia any Cuban citizen dream of, but twice she had been shattered by robbery attempts. Today, she is saving money and “resolving”, the Cuban slang to mean selling and proposing to tourists any sort of little business: Cuban cigars, names and contacts of “jineteras” she knows (a service well paid for them) and Cuban rum bottles she bought in the black market. She doesn’t even care if all those items are authentic, that is out of her mind as soon the money is in her hands. Done !!!
You can add a big slide of money from the fee she imposes in the desk of her hotel, and then you have the whole picture. Above everything: morality, political correctness and personal feelings she is fighting for her and her daughter. She has to pay her cell phone she bought to her mother who is staying in her house meanwhile she is working, food, clothing and any single detail her daughter needs at school and at home. She has to pay two taxis to go and return from her job. But, more important, she is saving to move out from El Palenque to exclusive Miramar or Playa.
She knows what she has to do. There is nothing unsellable in Cuba. From top to bottom, Cuba is a ladder of opportunism, little and bigger robberies and lies, lies in ideology, partisanship and politics. She belongs to the party, the only one ruling Cuba, she ought to in order to work and be a “reliable person” at her job. But above all that, she also has to give some money to her boss to keep him happy and never complain, and protect herself from other people’s eyes.
Day after day, Miriam is piling up dollar by dollar and making calculus about how much money she has to pay to the inspector of Cuba’s Housing Institute, to the lawyers to allow interchange her little wooded house with a comfortable in Playa or Miramar, pay to the officials who approve all the documents and bureaucracy needed, and on top of all, pay to the owner of her future house for “the sale”.
In Cuba, you are not in charge of anything. You are a loan of the government. Freedom is a word repeated by official journalists, Cuban media and leaders, but never renew and certainly surreal. You can’t sell your house. Any properties and your own freedom of movement are on the hands of the authorities. She can’t change that, so she chose to survive the jungle.
Knowing that, today Miriam is saving, closing her eyes to her heart and enduring. She couldn’t leave Cuba and anyhow she is a survival. For her, life is over. She is living for her daughter and praying for a change... soon.