Oscar and Jorge – The Musician and the Artist
As most people in Cuba, when discussing what is most important to lifetime friends Oscar and Jorge, they mentioned their families and their employment. Oscar feels closest to his brother who has been there for him through thick and thin, while Jorge focuses in on his children. Both focus on employment only to meet their basic daily means of providing for their loved ones.
These men have both recently taken street jobs, Oscar plays live music at restaurants and on the streets for tips, whereas Jorge creates artwork he sells to local tourists throughout Old Havana. Their story highlights the adaptability of the people of Cuba to become a jack of all trades in their ever-changing economic uncertainties as well as their ever-demanding environment.
As children, Jorge and Oscar had big dreams. Oscar’s days as a child were spent in the streets, using makeshift bats and whatever they could find to substitute as a ball, playing his number one passion: baseball. As a boy he remembers thinking that baseball was life, that it was all about hitting that ball and making that catch in his street pickup game played in bare feet. They all thought they were going to escape their poverty through excellence in sports. Yet as time progressed, Oscar was forced to adapt, to give up his dreams, and pursued training as a mechanic.
Jorge wasn’t as focused on sports and instead spent his time on seeing the sights. As most children in Cuba, he grew up with very little supervision and walked the streets most day, observing people and seeing nature. He’d eye the sweets he could see and lived for a piece of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream. He wanted nothing more than to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and to perhaps, one day, travel to the United States and see “if everyone was lying about what it was like there.”
Oscar has one child. Just the thought of providing for his son, motivates him to do whatever it takes to find money, food, shelter, medicine. Both Jorge and Oscar have learned to become quite thrifty in their pursuits, knowing the right people that can get medicine at a cheap cost, knowing the right hospitals that won’t turn away their family members if they can’t pay, knowing the streets that will pay them better for Oscar’s musical performances or Jorge’s paintings. Oscar was forced to find additional work, beyond being a mechanic. Being as adaptable as he is, he learned to play the guitar and performs wherever he feels the money will come.
Jorge’s past employment in factories and assembly lines not only never gave him the life he wanted but left him unfulfilled and needing more income. He also picked up his trade skill of painting later in life, as means to provide for himself and his children. Jorge discusses that money and employment in Cuba is very different than other places in the world. There’s simply not much money going around to the people. Jorge believes that regardless of the trade or skills or experience you have; life always seems to have its uncertainties and one needs to adapt in order to really survive and thrive.
Because of their ability to adapt, Jorge and Oscar have been able to continue to survive even with the rising costs of everyday necessities with groceries, food, housing and travel. They get by with what they have and wait for better days to come. Even the simplest food necessities such as milk, eggs, vegetables are increasing in price. But their income is not. Each day it becomes harder and harder to get by and they must become more and more resourceful in order to find the right connections and still provide for their number one priority: Family.
When describing his hope for the future, Oscar was simple and practical. He wants one family, living together in one place, with just enough to cover their basic needs for food. Jorge thought more of travel and his dreams to travel, just to own a car one day or have the financial freedom to go wherever his heart desires. Yet both cautioned about having too high of expectations in life, that their happiness cannot be dependent on future wish list items. Instead their future is all about gradually improving life and living their children better off than their parents did. Hopefully, overtime, they build a better life for the coming generations.
Life is shaped by family. We are born into a family that influences our lives and our opportunities. We then choose to pass these same beliefs on to our children or choose to change for the better and pass on better opportunities. We are all connected through the idea of family, our parents influence us, and we thereby influence our children in this chain connecting us through generations.
So, in a micro perspective, despite difficulties in one’s circumstances, the family must always be the center of attention and focus. It is the constant in our lives that gives our struggle purpose, our fight meaning. It keeps our minds sharp and focused on adapting in order to survive and provide for those who mean most to us. Jorge and Oscar share this perspective, and although they admit that their own friendship has given them much happiness, nothing can replace family. Their future is uncertain, but they set all of their hopes for the future on their children to make their world a better place.
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