This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Restructuring the Cuban economy

All of my previous posts were items I'd written for other forums, or just for my own fun. This is the first piece I've written specifically for this blog.


The Cuban economy has been fragile for decades. Trading sanctions against it by the United States and other countries that follow its lead have taken their toll, and the people of Cuba suffer. Raul Castro’s government recently embarked on a massive employment restructuring program and, since the state is the island’s largest employer, many people are being affected.

The intent, I’ve read, was to cut the fat from inflated payrolls and promote productivity. However, there are often few work options available beyond what the government has long provided. So, when people have their previously guaranteed hours of work and wages cut, they struggle to find something else, just to make ends meet. This is particularly a problem in impoverished rural regions like Granma.

I recently learned that one of my friends, who has worked at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo for much of his adult life, has had his work cut to “high-season” only (just the winter months, when the bulk of the tourists visit). This summer, he and his wife, who was also working at the resort, were assigned to work at a hospital instead. Although they’re on the resort staff, they are actually paid by the government and, as I understand it, must work where they’re told when not needed at their usual jobs.

This friend said his wages have been reduced to about 60%, which means he’ll now take home about $8/month Canadian (CAD). His wife would likely have been making less but, because she was a waitress, would have brought home more money from tips. They are looking into other endeavors to generate income for their small family.

As an aside, let me explain a little bit about the importance of tipping. Another friend, who has worked at the same resort for about 18 years, if I recall correctly, was off work for three months due to eye surgery. He said missing work made it very hard for his family financially – not due to decreased wages (approx. $12/month) but because of the lack of tips. I don’t know how much he might typically take home on an average day but he told me, the best tip he ever got, once, was $20. Tips are vital.

Some people who will now be underemployed are seeking new options. Private enterprise is not exactly encouraged in Cuba but, it seems, the government is becoming a little more lenient in this regard. It remains to be seen what will happen in the long run.

For more information on what is developing, I would encourage you to read the Havana Times. Here’s an article to start with: Cuba Gov. Offensive to Cut Inflated Payrolls.

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