Although there is nothing more certain than this irrational fear of death, it seems that a growing number of Cubans persist in becoming corpses. I am not only referring to the disturbing throw from a rooftop, to the decision to suffocate with a rope around one’s neck, to the instantaneous consumption of several dozen tranquilizing pills or lethal portions of rodent poison, but also to that death in instalments caused by the ingestion of alcoholic beverages.
In Cuba, suicide continues to be one of the main causes of death, although the official press insists on hiding the figures that point to the existence of a serious psychosocial problem, worsened by the economic crisis that began in 1991, until today, as a result of the suspension of aid from the so-called socialist camp.
In the capital it is very natural to come across groups of heavy drinkers and people who have lost their minds, many of them from the accumulation of misfortunes and the lack of hope to benefit even from partial solutions. Alcohol, even industrial alcohol, previously distilled to reduce its harmful effects, is consumed with total lightness by this segment of the population, victim of alienation and where the increasing presence of young women and men is noted.
This is a phenomenon that belies the government’s cheap enthusiasm for its management successes in all aspects of national affairs.
The administrators of neocastrism boast of the number of university graduates each year, of their ability to organize massive patriotic marches, of the absence of illiterates, of free access to public health and the preservation of monthly deliveries of rationed products, among other achievements, no less publicized, despite the economic setbacks, which they attribute solely and exclusively to the U.S. embargo.
For the sake of objectivity, it would be appropriate to add the revealing number of potentially suicidal alcoholics and orates who roam the streets and sleep in the portals of battered buildings.
The leap forward that television and radio reports describe, and that appear, as spectacular or more spectacular, in the pages of the flat press, is pure mirage. In reality, life in Cuba has to do with upheavals and escapes, nothing to do with prosperity or approaches to the spheres of rationality and calm.
Precisely, alcohol is an escape route at the expense of overflowing with walkers in the years to come. Living like a zombie is part of a process determined by circumstances.
It is not easy, to have to steal to satisfy a minimum portion of the basic necessities, to shelter in a quarter in danger of collapse, to sleep on a filthy and ramshackle mattress and to bathe with a splinter of soap and half a bucket of water. Millions of Cubans have been facing these calamities on a daily basis for decades, and on top of that they can’t even complain out loud. They must do so discreetly or otherwise remain silent. Public scandal fines and contempt convictions are always available to those who overdo their dissatisfaction.
Everyday life is permeated with those agonies that everyone relieves in their own way. Some get drunk, thinking about the fatality of water everywhere. Others manage to break the siege of the Caribbean Sea and count the sorrows from other shores. The point is to escape from an unworthy existence with few possibilities of change, under the absolute hegemony of the Communist Party.
For many, suicide is the gateway to escape. Lacking the courage to die through a desperate act, some prefer to leave this world slowly with their viscera saturated with alcohol. About twenty friends and acquaintances have opted for this type of escape. Others languish step by step, their faces deformed by drunkenness and the scrapes of falls and fights that occur in the fullness of drunkenness.