Everyone that has ever visited Cuba went back to their country wondering the same thing: ‘How can Cubans live in such misery and be so happy about it”.
Let me get one thing straight: We are not happy about our misery. We just have found a way to be happy despite it.
We lack the essentials that the rest of the world cannot even imagine living without. And that is not to say we don’t wish to have those essentials. We actually do. All it means is we must cope without them. We are poor but we are happy. And here is how we go about doing it:
- Find the humour in misery: Cuban people find a way to laugh at whatever rough times they are going through. In psychology they call that a mechanism of defense. In Cuba we call it a mechanism of survival. I cannot stress it enough how much we have to rely on making fun of the situation to get through it. We say ‘if I don’t laugh I’ll have to cry about it’. We believe when we smile at the face of misery ‘she’ looks away. Any Cuban will tell you that is an art you will need to master in order to deal with any pain.
- Dancing solves it all: That’s what a Cuban song says. It means that when misery sets, you need to find a way to release the stress it causes. For Cubans there is no better way to release it than dancing. For those who don’t dance, all it means is exploring your artistic or creative side. In fact, there is a saying in Cuba that says ‘we all are musician, a poet, and crazy people’. For Cuban, even if you are a mathematician, if must explore being artistic or you go mad. So you find Electric Engineers that play in a Reggae band, nurses that’s that paint, Microbiologist that write. We are many people in one as a means to release tension. We allow art to help solve whatever wrong we have going in our lives.
- Let it slide: It gets to a point where life doesn’t give you much choice than letting things go. So you have to just be ok with living with whatever lemon comes flying your way. In Cuba, we say we don’t care if we get “Chicha or Lemonade”. And when that becomes a way of life, you find yourself not sweating the small stuff. And when you do that they you can focus on fighting the battles that are worth fighting.
And after doing all that, it won’t mean you will be happy. In fact, opposite to common believe, Cuban people are not happy. Mostly because it is just hard to be happy when you are always in survival mode. But one thing Cubans are very good at is dealing with misery and showing a smile as a means of going through our rough times.
And that is what visitors see when they go there: people that have mastered the art of coping with stress.