With their tattoos, skateboards, and tech degrees, the country's millennials are untethered from the communist ideals of the past and ready to meet the world.
By Edu Bayer
Monica Moltó sits on a small boat-shaped brick bench, the work of artist Alexis Leyva Machado, known as Kcho. The people scattered around her are busy with their laptops, tablets, and computers. She is one of the dozens of young people patiently trying to connect to the first free Wi-Fi Internet in Cuba at the Kcho art studio in El Romerillo.
Moltó, 18, is a telecommunications student in Havana.
“In college, we fix payphones and old machines,” Moltó says as she holds an iPhone in one hand and checks her laptop with the other. Sporting a tight printed T-shirt and big retro sunglasses, Moltó wears her dyed hair short and has a small piercing in her nose. Referring to school, she says that much of the work they do “is all very theoretical, because we have very few computers and almost no Internet.”
After a half hour, Moltó gives up on trying to load her Facebook page, though the rest of the young faces around her still appear engrossed in their browser screens waiting to connect. They, like Moltó, are part of Cuba’s millennial generation, a group of young people who no longer identify with their country’s revolutionary ideology. They are not as vested in politics nor are they interested in working for the state for a monthly wage of roughly $15 to $20.
Moltó was 11 years old when Fidel Castro resigned power, and she does not remember his now notoriously long speeches, in which he railed against the United States and harangued the Cuban people listening with his ideas about socialism. Neither does she remember Cuba’s links to the USSR, the hard Período Especial, and when the famous Coppelia ice-cream shop had more than one flavor per day. The Cuban revolution is something that she studied in school and is little more than that to her now -- something that happened long ago. It is not a part of her.
Nowadays, however, in her Cuba -- despite most of the population still working for the state -- the biggest part of the people’s salary is the black market, especially in the cities. The system doesn’t work anymore. There is a funny sentence that many people like to repeat: “The state pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work.”
She is part of a growing and ambitious creative collective -- young musicians, designers, dancers, actors, and artists -- who lack material wealth but are now seeking their place in the alternative (private) scene outside the official proceedings.
Cuban millenials have a more Western mentality; they want stuff, they want to look good, to have fun, and to be able to have the freedom to pursue grander ambitions -- financial and otherwise.
They want more.