National Geographic : 2012 Nov
' are big, serious, unwieldy. What is the de ni- tion of freedom? What do human beings need? What do they owe to each other? What do they want, beyond what they need? "We've all been the subjects of an experiment," a 58-year-old university-educated woman who works in the arts told me thoughtfully one evening, chopping sweet peppers in her kitchen for supper. She lives in an airy place, with a fenced front lawn and a backyard patio, in a leafy part of Havana; the home has belonged to her family since before the Triunfo, the Triumph of the Revolution, as Cubans generally refer to the events of 1959. Her lightbulbs are compact uorescents, the woman pointed out---one legacy of an ambitious nation- al project a few years back, directing all Cubans to switch to lower watt xtures in the interests of energy independence and the environment. " ey'd come to check," she said. " ey would break your old bulbs, in front of you, to make sure you didn't sneak any back into your lamps." She smiled and looked over her glasses at me to make sure I was listening closely enough. She has one child, a son a decade younger than Eduardo---gone now, having bailed out on Cuba and obtained a therapy credential in Spain. " e idea was marvelous, to change all the lightbulbs," she said. " e problem is how they did it." , the rebuilding of the house of Cuba looks like this: Capitalism intrudes, around the edges, small bits at a time. Since 2010 more than 150,000 Cuban workers have le or been laid o from their state jobs, a concept previously unimaginable in a system that was supposed to provide all the work and all the social bene ts. President Castro himself has said that the state apparatus is bloated and too conducive to dependence and corruption, and that the state must trim a half million work- ers. State agricultural land is now being leased in pieces to private farmers and cooperatives, and other kinds of legal self-employment are being gingerly promoted as well. Over the past two years the government has authorized 181 job-speci c categories of cuentapropismo, a s i t 's called---the keeping of one's own account. Even the ration book---the libreta issued to all Cuban households, with its check-o columns for the state-subsidized basic foods every citizen In a government o ce in Viñales a receptionist labors under a portrait of retired leader Fidel Castro and a sign proclaiming that work must be orderly, disciplined, and demanding.