HAVANA, Oct 8th Last year, I had to travel to Guatemala City to confirm I had earned the “honourable” status of an old man. A reality check says I am a few blinks away from being seven decades old.I must confess, wholeheartedly, that I had never experienced such a momentous occasion in my life. I got onboard a Transmetro bus, extremely efficient urban public transport, with exclusive lanes.
It was very cheap to use (some 10-15 cents USD) and with WIFI on board. As soon as it moved two meters forward, a young woman was already standing up to offer me her seat. She did this because it was a seat reserved for the elderly. Possibly for somewhat machista or mood-related reasons, I thanked her, but I rejected her offer.
Back to Cuba
I used to see scenes like this in Cuba of the ‘60s. People standing up and offering their seat, in the ‘70s too. This practice diminished in the ‘80s until it almost completely disappeared ten years before the end of the century. From 2000 until today, well I don’t need to say anything. It seems like a custom and sign of proper manners on the brink of extinction like it has today.
Abdiel Bermudez, a young Cuban TV journalist, recently talked about the problems that the Cuban elderly face. He really hit the nail on the head. As you would expect, some more than others, but all cut from the same material, demanding better treatment and even privileges in the face of such a long life. One that hasn’t been free of sacrifice on the real battlefield, beyond our own borders.
For every 1278 elderly, there are 1000 children. Cuba is ageing at a dizzying pace. The government is well aware of it.
In addition to other age-related grievances, with all of this “turmoil” that normally swims around our minds, I concluded – based on no study whatsoever – that there are two kinds of old people: the optimists and the pessimists. I belong to the former.
The president of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) called to tell me I will have a free pass at 9 AM this Sunday to go buy things at the corner store [instead of waiting in a long line].
That’s a start, I think to myself.