My name is Juan Luis Sanchez and had lived well in my country Cuba before this new regime by a tyrant they call Fidel Castro. Although Fulgencio Batista was harsh and corrupt, my life was not very bad. Now it seems that things have changed quite a bit here in Havana. We have become what they call a communist state, and we have no political companion here in the western hemisphere. I was one who was opposed to the corruption I saw in Batista’s government, and though I wanted in some ways to help the peasants raise their standard of living, I was not prepared to have mine lowered in the process.
I also was a bit disgruntled at the way the United States had a heavy hand in the politics of my country Cuba, but I am not sure now that Cuba will be in a very good position having incurred the wrath of such a powerful neighbor. This rift has apparently been sealed by a socialist tie we seemed to have developed with the sworn enemies of the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). Many of my comrades are no longer here in Cuba.
I have not been able to find many of my professional friends—my personal attorney, family physician and several of my business partners, I have been told, have fled the country because of the threat that this new regime poses to their livelihood. Many of them now live in Miami, Florida. I am now experiencing what must have been the fears of my comrades that made them flee. My businesses relied heavily on several other business that were funded by U. S. nationals and that have come under attack in this new regime.
My business, which was growing in the 1940’s and 1950’s, has been experiencing problems since the heavy U. S. ownership of 35% of the sugar industry has been altered. My business’s strategy seems to have changed greatly. It no longer sends a large portion of its produce to the United States, as relations between Cuba and the U. S. have broken down. This problem seems to be very serious, as I have read about a Bay of Pigs incident in which the United States lent support to some Cuban exiles in an attempt to overthrow Castro’s government. I also hear of a Cold War between the United States and the USSR in which our country has become involved.
Recently, the USSR has removed some warheads and missiles from our territory, as the United States had threatened to invade Cuba if those things had remained. Though I have spoken of the business I used to run as “my business” I no longer seem to be in charge of it. When I showed up at the office, no one acknowledged me and I was not allowed to go in. The few comrades I had left in Cuba reported that their businesses had been taken away from them and were placed under the direction of the government. All the profits go to the government, which then rations out wages to former business owners.
Our wages have been capped. All my extended property, I came to find, no longer belongs to me and I have lost my large house. Now I have to live in much smaller quarters and share the premises with other persons with whom I am not acquainted. The Cuban economy seems to be doing well, though I have heard that in the last decade (the 1960’s) it had experienced some trouble. Now, we have been receiving some help from the USSR as our investments and trade have now become heavily tied with this and other communist countries of Europe.
Our large sugar industry, though no longer able to serve the United States, is guaranteed a market in these European communist states. Though officially the economy is doing well, I have become aware of a shadow economy that exists here in Cuba. It shades the fact that the U. S. dollar receives a higher value on the black market than it does on the official market. Still, the country does possess wealth, which it pours into governmental policies and the military.
Though I should probably be relieved that the country is generating wealth, I am very uncomfortable with the fact that all that I have worked for in the past years has been taken from me. I feel I am entitled to a share in all the wealth that is being generated within the economy, yet I am allowed to share in none of this. I have lost all freedom to enjoy the fruit of my former and current labor. In fact, I find that the freedoms of Cubans have been curtailed to the extent that no voluntary organizations exist, nor is there any real scope for the common educated professional (or any common man) to enter the political arena.
I, who once was heavily involved in the political aspects of my community, have now only a few alternatives for membership in organizations. I can become a member of one of two organizations of the Cuban Catholic Bishops known as a Carita, or I may involve myself in one of a few other religious institutions dedicated to Jewish, African, or Masonic religions. I have no dissenting voice when it comes to politics. Though this was largely the case under Batista, it now appears to be even more so.
Apart from the friends I learned to have migrated, I have been told in secret that two of them were imprisoned for speaking out against the new regime. Yet, despite all the problems I have found and the freedoms that have been stripped from me, I have also noticed some very strange yet progressive occurrences here in Cuba. These seem to be in favor of those who were once peasants. I remember the days when, especially during sugar’s off-season, many peasants were in danger of starving to death because they were out of work.
Even I had no choice but to lay off during that period many who worked for me. Now their lives seem to have improved, as they receive from the state rations that last all year round. Schools have only recently resumed operation here in Havana. I have been told that all the teachers and students had been temporarily sent to rural areas in order to teach the peasants there to read and write. As a result, our nation’s literacy rate has risen rapidly. Almost all the persons here can read and write at this point, and the literacy crash program is said to be almost complete.
At this rate, literacy is expected to be at 95% by the 1990’s. The streets are also much cleaner here than they were before I woke up to this reality. We, as citizens, have all been made responsible for the cleanliness of our community. I myself have been placed in a group and am required to participate in sanitation activities. The healthcare appears to have improved the lives of the peasants, whom I had had a desire to help before the revolution took place. Indeed, some of those who worked for me had enjoyed the benefits of being seen by my personal physician.
Despite this, I was well aware that many of their children died at early ages and that this fact was represented in a large portion of the population—an overwhelming number that I alone could not possible have hoped to reach. Now it seems that governmental reforms have helped solve this problem, as our infant mortality rate has dropped to about 9. 8 per 1000 live births. This is among the lowest rate in the entire world. We also have a system of health care that ranks as the best in Latin America, and our life expectancy has recently climbed to the levels boasted by the United States.
Although my personal physician is no longer available, I find that I too do not have to worry very much about basic healthcare needs, as the Cuban state is now in charge of providing this to all its citizens. This is of great help to me, as I no longer find myself with the resources necessary to pay for these kinds of necessities on my own. Yet, although I am grateful for the help of the government in this area, I cannot help but remember the times when I as an upper-classed business owner could afford to pay for this and so much more. Luis, J. G. (2000). Cuban Revolution Reader: A Document History. Ocean Press.