Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strands in the Wind

Christine Ruston, Havana
May 14, 2013

HAVANA- Dinner at the docks near Hemingway’s museum satisfied my need for cuisine familiar to my American stomach: Pizza. No meat, no diced vegetables, just dough and cheese and a thin slathering of marinara. Contented and relaxed bumping away in the backseat of a taxi with a speedometer perpetually reading nine kilometers per hour, we pulled next to another car with a family and a three or four year old girl waving in the back. As the wind from the Malécon coiled her light-brown hair around her face like a cobra, her smile forced the corners of my own mouth to turn up in return.

Taxi ride along the Malécon, Cuba. Christine Rushton/Murrow College

But when I finally looked into her eyes I realized the likelihood of her Cuban heritage damaged the likelihood of her success in achieving any potential dreams. In the first 18 years of my life, I wanted to be a professional horse jockey, a veterinarian, a fiction author and the CEO of a publishing house. The women I have come across in Cuba thus far hold taxi driver jobs, are cleaning women in the hotels, and some sell their bodies as prostitutes.
Artwork from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA) in Havana.

Artwork from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA) in Havana.
The taxi driver we met twice told us the government requires she pay at least 50 CUC, the Cuban currency, to them each day she works, but she only receives 10 CUC a month on which to live. Another Cuban said he had a friend, albeit male, that studied to practice as a gynecologist, but gave up to own a taco cart because he achieved more success in that business.

As the breeze once again whipped through the young girl’s hair, taking one strand out past the Malécon into the Caribbean, I saw the rippling waves engulf and sweep away her future. I realize my limited time in Cuba has provided both optimistic and pessimistic opinions, and that with the potential of the embargo lifting she may have the chance to pursue her passions.

Havana, Cuba.                                 Christine Rushton/Murrow College
However, right now, watching how her role models live day-to-day with little more than food, water and a job that pays more to the government than to their own families, I fear her dreams will never reach fruition. I only wish I could collect a few strands of my own hair and offer her even one-fourth of the opportunities I’ve received in only 20 years of existence as an American.

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