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Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted: August 7, 2009 06:15 PM

When The State Owns Everything, You Have to Cheat to Survive

Read More: Cuba, World News

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The taxi belongs to the State but the need is yours. So you sit in front of the steering wheel with one clear objective: to get everything you can from your customers. They blame you for wanting to prosper, but every night you must give sixty convertible pesos* to the company you work for. You can only collect that much through cheating, small swindles that let you earn something for yourself. If you go several days without paying up, they order you out and there are many who want to take the seat of your white Russian-made Lada.

You've bought an enormous rearview mirror which completely covers the meter, which you've manipulated so it always shows more. You also have the knack of saying, "I don't have any small coins," which lets you keep the difference if your fare doesn't have exact change. The bad days, you risk more and don't even turn on the digital display that shows the cost of the trip; you travel for a fixed price that goes totally into your own pocket. Even though they've installed a sensor in the back seat to detect if you're occupied, you ask the people to sit on the edge and this way the income ends up in your hands and not those of Cubataxi.

The costs of repairing the car are charged to you, because no one is more interested that the tires aren't flat and that the tank always has gasoline. But when they sack you from your job you'll have to leave everything you've invested in this taxi, which they will give to someone else, someone who will repeat the same deceptions that you do today. So you try to get the greatest benefit out of your fourteen hours of work and pick up tourists in the street, who don't know the distance between one place and another in the city. You tell them the situation is very bad and you have three children, meanwhile you take them from the Capitol to Santa Maria by the longest route. When they get out you ask them for three times the cost of the kilometers traveled and calculate that with this you won't have to give all your earnings to Him** today. Thanks to these repeated scams, you can take at least a part of your earnings home.

** "He/Him" is the pronoun reserved for the power, the state and the president.

*Translator's note:
Sixty convertible pesos is more than $60 U.S.; the average monthly wage in Cuba is about $17-$20 U.S. Cuba has two currencies: Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs), and Cuban Pesos. One CUC is worth about 24 Cuban Pesos.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.

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