Poverty in Cuba? Yes. It is difficult to get an unbiased picture of Cuba; some sing its praises, speaking of 100% literacy rates and a country where everyone has easy access to a first-class education, while some vilify it and makes examples of the families who scrape together enough to afford sugar, a repressive political regime and crumbling infrastructure. The reality appears to be a strange mix between the two images, a country that is quite poor but not, as is normally the case, extremely miserable as a result of it.
Cuba, a thoroughly non-Western country, also has a thoroughly non-Western brand of poverty. Poverty in Cuba is severe in terms of access to physical commodities, especially in rural areas. Farmers struggle and many women depend on prostitution to make a living. Citizens have few material possessions and lead simpler lives with few luxuries and far more limited political freedom.
Yet the nation has enviably high literacy rates and a famously good healthcare system. In terms of levels of abject poverty, Cuba has indeed been through worse. They speak of the ‘Special Period’ in the past where some ate anacondas into extinction and the average Cuban lost ten pounds. Journalists comment that while the young are dissatisfied with Cuba’s current state, older generations remain loyal to Castro ideologies because they recall what life was like before the revolution.
In a country with limited resources and a significantly different political and economic ideology, it would be unreasonable to expect Cuba to ever attempt to lift its entire population to the American middle-class ideal. Operating under this mindset, Cuba has been successful in many ways, in managing to provide for its citizens what other countries in the region cannot.
This does not, however, mean that Cuba has achieved an ideal. The people of the country are still struggling in a number of ways; food insecurity, frustration and a lack of basic goods plagues the country while the economy struggles. There are no easy answers with Cuba’s charged political history, though the new Castro leadership offers significant hope for opening the country economically, with all the potential benefits such a move would bring.
– Farahnaz Mohammed