Elementary school is usually that stage of a child when we discover that life is more than romance, princesses and fairy tales. In a third world country being in elementary school is about finding one’s self in every aspect; sexual orientation, vanities, ideologies, political views and future jobs.
In seventh grade I was proud and excited to be among the big kids. I used my uniform very tight and short and spent many days in the principal’s office for not following with the uniform and school policies. You see, my class was not the most…. Lets say…. disciplined and I really enjoyed being a part of a group of teenagers that were the best at not getting caught. (Important life skill apparently). But this story in not about a group of mischievous kids, it is about something more complex.
Let me start from the day I went home decided not to go back to school because the kids at school were bulling me and making fun of my shoes, which were really a two piece shoes; the sole and the upper part, which were glued together with crazy glue but kept coming apart showing half of my feet. That day my mom had actually been to a doctor’s convention where she meets a rich man (John) from Belgium. My mom was very modest and proud and John had offered her money to get home, she refused. Later that night my mom gets home by bus and finds in her purse 25 CUC. The next morning I explain to my mom that I wasn’t going to school with half my shoes anymore and she sends me to school anyways. When I get home with my sister I see that my mom had bought a new pair of shoes with the money John had put in her bag. I asked her how she was able to buy shoes when they were so expensive, you see, in Cuba the salary of a doctor is 20-25 CUC per month.
My mom says that a friend of hers had helped her; I thank her and go to school showing off my new pair. Because I’m dark skinned, It was hard to fit in at school. The light skinned curly haired girls were the pretty ones and so were the white ones. I felt there was a certain group I could fit in; the fantastic 5! Surina, Geisa, Dayana, Yenisanyer and I, Aime. We were fire, we were stylish and sexy and we thought we could conquer the world, especially the world of the boys in 9th grade. Although we were all at a certain point not the kind of latina you would see in TV, we were the kind of latina that should be in every drama show in the world. We planned so many parties in school days, to which half the school would go even if that meant skipping school.
Time passed by and between my mom and John flourishes a genuine love. All of a sudden our half done house in under construction. And I’m finding my fridge stacked with food, with food! My mom explains to my sister and I that she had started a relationship with a Belgian man and that he will not be living with us just yet because it was soon in the relationship and because the law did not allow relationships of that kind unless they were married. We were happy to see my mom find love again and to have food and clothes and shower gel for the first time in a very long time. I started to go to school with lunch money, in CUC! For those who don’t know In Cuba there are 2 currencies; pesos and dollars. The equivalent to one dollar is 25 pesos to the date. Soon, kids from other classes started to notice that I had money and also my school was in my neighborhood so everybody knew.
I wasn’t the poor half a shoe black girl anymore but that didn’t change me. I realized that people treated me differently, that now I was offered to go to 9th grader parties and had many boys wanting to date me. I was too authentic and too modest to fall for that superficial world. So I gathered my friends and took them for lunches, and dinners and we went out in style every time. I used the money that was accessible to me and shared it with the people who truly loved me and it taught me that happiness come from authenticity and self love.
Many people believe money changes people but I have discovered that money just gives us access to privilege. Money doesn’t make us greedy and bad human beings; money just gives bad human beings the tools to be who they truly are.