Getting By – The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I)
Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I)
April 15, 2014
HAVANA TIMES — Many a time, when I get up in the morning, I don’t need
to look at the clock, for, at exactly 7 am every day, a man who sells
bread and invariably walks past my house blows a whistle and yells out:
“Bread, come get your bread!”
For some years now, this man, now around 70, pushes a cart loaded with
sacks of bread (usually fresh), sparing people the walk to the
Every morning of every day, in other places around Havana, other elderly
men and women start on their daily walk in search of people they can
sell such things to. Some of them rely on suppliers, others make their
Currently, elderly Cubans – part of the population that does not
contribute to the GDP – render different kinds of services of this
nature, for making ends meet is becoming harder and harder as a result
of rising prices and the repercussions of corruption. The elderly, for
the most part retirees, have measly pensions and hardly any other income
to help them get by. Sometimes that pittance is added to the family
income and in others is their only individual substance.
In recent days, the government has repeatedly referred to the aging of
Cuba’s population, something which was already being announced by the
migratory avalanche that took place in the 90s, a phenomenon which takes
on a different dimension now and has resulted in the loss of a great
part of an entire generation.
At the time, most of the Cuban men and women who left the country,
fleeing the economic crisis, were young people, young people who today
swell the work forces of other countries and have had their children there.
Though they took the memory of their loved ones with them and promised
to help them financially, in many cases, they cannot offer those who
stayed behind as much help as they need or as they would want.
The cost of living in Cuba has also undermined the quality of life of
many people now over or pushing 70, who live in poverty and are
In addition to old people selling bread, sweets, peanuts or pastries,
one sees elderly men and women selling tamales, working as errand people
who take others their rations, gas bills and mail and even carrying
In a fairly large area of Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, two
elderly street vendors have become well known in the neighborhood: one
carries peanuts inside a can heated up with coals (to keep the product
warm) and the other, an elderly lady, sounds a tiny bell to sell the
different pastries she makes.
In other parts of the city, you run into elderly people who roam the
streets, dirty or wearing rags, people who rummage through garbage bins
in search of things, selling used plumbing or electrical fixtures, spare
parts some people buy from them.
Some of them sell toothpaste, candles, tampons, bags of cotton balls,
used shoes, cigarettes, popsicles, plastic bags or chicken bouillon.
Many of them are no longer able to find employment at State institutions
and find illegal means of making a living.
Though all of this may be common in other societies, in the relatively
recent past, retirees were a prioritized sector in Cuba. Now, this is no
longer the case.
Well, folks, the situation has become worse and worse and has become
more noticeable as time passes. These elderly vendors are part of the
daily life of all of Havana’s neighborhoods, as we may well be one day,
when we join the ranks of this army whose glorious battles are a thing
of the past.
Source: Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I) –
Havana Times.org – http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103010