Anyone who knows my Grandpa and I well know that we are very curious individuals. We ask a lot of questions; enough to annoy someone. Our tendencies did not cease during our recent trip to Havana, Cuba.
As many of you know, Cuba is the forbidden fruit of the United States. With the trade embargo still (temporarily) in place, getting to Cuba is no easy task. Americans don’t know much about Cuba, and many of us have never been to a true communist country. This is where our curiosity kicked in.
We conversed with numerous Cubans, most of them cab drivers and restaurant waiters. Some questions were fair game, some may have been a little too much, but we wanted that information. Everything below is first hand from Cubans themselves.
Imagine having almost no personal possessions. Everything you do on a daily basis is provided by the government. The cars that cab drivers drive? Owned by the state. The hotel you’re staying at? Owned by the state. That jet ski you rented at the beach? Also, owned by the state. it’s something that is hard to even fathom!
One thing that was hard for us to grasp was: what made them take care of the things they owned? If it wasn’t theirs, why would they keep it in good condition. On the other hand, since everything is shared by the people, I guess the reason you would keep it in good shape was because you would want others to maintain the things you want to use! Who knows?
From what we can tell, although it is a true communist country, the state does have classes. So although everything is equal for the people, some people may be making more than others. General employees like these hotel workers and cab drivers are obviously in a different class than military generals and the likes.
That being said, education within certain classes can vary, but the money distribution may not be what you think it is. For example: a doctor could be making less than a restaurant employee. This is because both parties get paid roughly $20 (500 CUP) /month, but the restaurant employee makes tips! In a capitalist economy, this would make no sense.
Farmers Contribute Their Own Goods
So what about those who don’t make money to contribute to the government? Well they contribute in their own way! My understanding is that farmers contribute the crops and livestock they grow for redistribution to the people. Every month, citizens of Cuba receive a form they most fill out identifying what food they want. For example, one could choose 1 pound of chicken, or 20 oz of pork, etc, etc.
There are no interviews and there is no hiring process. All job placements are through the government! Once again, from what I understand, all colleges are for the sole purpose of your desired position. It is essentially trade school. If you’d like to be a restaurant employee, you go to the school for hospitality and tourism. If you’d like to be a doctor, you go to medical school. Post graduation, the government will position you in your relative fields.
Communism is hard to comprehend. What drives the employees to work hard? How can Fidel and Raúl think this is good for their people? It’s honestly mind boggling. I expect that within the next 15 years, Cuba will transition into a capitalist economy, promoting personal growth and hard word. Until then, it will remain one of the most interesting destinations on our wonderful earth.