Unity is a fundamental connection for humanity. Needless to say, a connection is never static and fluctuates according to its inherent will to do so. And as humans have proudly demonstrated for millenniums, such “laws” of nature can, in fact, be altered and unity is undoubtedly one of these commandments. The condition of humanity is grounded by the roots of unity and without their proper nourishment, I would not be sitting in the sala of my residence house writing this blog post, dated 13 February 2019, describing my time as an exchange student in Havana, Cuba.
The United States of America and the Republic of Cuba have been in seemingly consistent conflict with one another since the turn of the 18th century; the former being the primary instigator of such contention. But as I had stated previously, unity is what creates humanity and I will, therefore, dedicate my attention to what is most meaningful: Current U.S.-Cuban relations have granted me the privilege to be a student of Cuba’s Universidad de la Habana, as well as a foreign participant in Cuban society.
As an expatriate, responsibilities, and sustenance of self-consciousness that I am expected to maintain back at home should continue here in Cuba as well. My actions are observed more critically than those of a birth-citizen and thus capture an image reflective of my home country and its people. Whether that image is reflective of a Monet painting viewed up-close (“a big-ol mess”) or international prestige, I would consider my unobserved actions to elicit the most profound effects on Cuban society. For example, where I choose to dine-in for lunchtime is not just a matter of personal taste, but the development of either the local or national economy.
Acknowledging the purchasing power of foreign travelers and subsequently the leverage they have over the national economy, the Cuban government implemented a dual currency to curb potential exploitation on behalf of such visitors. One will find that some businesses perform transactions using either Moneda Nacional (CUP), or the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) which is primarily used by international travelers. I have found that many places accepting CUP as a form of payment are locally owned and far-less-expensive. Considering my frugal tendencies, I most often go to local business at which I could order an entire pizza, or a large plate of rice and beans for less than $1.00 USD.
Here in Cuba, one will discover a rare kindheartedness and love unable to be found in any other nation across the globe. The people living on this island have suffered greatly from the effects of a conflict the United States has imposed on Cuba since the 19th century, which continues to strip the Cuban people with the basic means for survival. Yet, one will discover that a monthly average salary of $25 dollars does not stop one’s hand from passing on whatever spare change that he or she may hold, onto another person in need. And despite this ‘poverty-line’ salary, I have yet to see a homeless person living on the streets of Habana, unlike the many persons I see suffering in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The experience of living in Cuba will open the heart and help you to trust others more, but only if you lay your guards down and do not go against the natural will of the soul to love unconditionally and without survey.
- Kevin Moises Lockett
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