Hasta Suicide is Hard in Cuba

If you know one thing about Cuba or have read a few of my more distressed musings over the years, you’re aware of how hard things are here. Some people have it easier than others of course – that’s the way of all societies, including those striving to be equitable and just – but I can count on one hand the Cubans I know who have it easy como tal.

The rest of us? We’re taking it One Day at a Time, trying to keep kindled the light in our eyes as we tolerate brutally long lines under an equally brutal sun; navigate a frustratingly disorganized (and often contradictory) bureaucracy; and bid adieu a steady stream of friends and loved ones as they leave the island.

That light, the inner sparkle and glow which I’m convinced helps us mere mortals to remain upright and breathing against the most violent and debilitating experiences life is forever fond of meting out – brain cancer, heartbreak, war, earthquakes, Tea Party republicans – has been snuffed for many here. Perhaps you’ve seen it yourself.

Is it just a coincidence that Cuba has one of the world’s highest suicide rates? And for all you dissident fucks and pseudo-intellectual detractors who pin blame on the revolutionary government, I recommend you read Lou Perez’ definitive tome To Die in Cuba: Suicide and Society. Therein you’ll discover that Cuba has had a sky-high suicide rate throughout the ages. I’d venture a guess that rather than any political paradigm, imperialism, slavery and neo-colonialism (plus their oppressive after effects), combined with lost or tossed love are largely to blame.

Causes aside, the problem is that in today’s Cuba, killing yourself is not an easy proposition. I wouldn’t even know where to get a gun, for instance, and no one I know has a working oven to stick your head in, let alone a car and garage guaranteeing proper asphyxiation. As far as I can tell, unless you throw yourself in front of a bus, off a bridge or down a dry well (a popular solution in the campo if I’m not mistaken), you’re shit out of luck in terms of trying to off yourself.

Hanging is a universally popular option, but how do you knot the thing correctly? If we had any decent kind of Internet, this could easily be learned on YouTube, I’m sure, but alas…And then there’s the question of finding an appropriate spot for your final dangle. I know that in my microbrigada apartment, there isn’t a prospective beam that isn’t termite-infested, an overhead fan that could bear my weight or other place for proper hanging. Getting cozy with a toaster in the tub seems practical – if you know anyone with a toaster or a tub. I suppose you could substitute an olla reina, but finding a tub? Good luck with that.

This leaves poison, pills or wrist-slashing (vertically, people, not across the veins). All things considered, I suppose an overdose would be the best bet. How many diazapan do you think it would take? That’s a rhetorical question.

I leave you with these thoughts since this will likely be my last post for a spell as I try and enjoy something of this summer.

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27 Comments

Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Expat life, Living Abroad

27 responses to “Hasta Suicide is Hard in Cuba

  1. Pamela Simon

    Conner, this is so distressing, I had no idea that this was occurring let alone in large numbers. What are some of the ways people are leaving the island these days? I cannot imagine that this is easy.
    My little friend whom I care for there is struggling to leave and cannot find a way out. How are Cubans managing to do this in such large numbers? If I could bring her to Canada I would but cannot find any way to,do so.
    Pam Simon

    • How friends have left in the past 2 years: on a work contract (Berlin & Canada); marrying a Mexican/Argentine/Italian; family reunification in Miami; visa to US. I haven’t had any friends leave on lanchas/balsas and I hope I never do. It is time for US to revise its Cuban immigration policy.

      • Pamela Simon

        What sort of work are they finding in Canada? Do they get a visa for Canada in hope of finding work or must they have something lined up?
        And yes, Obama needs to do something now. I thought he would solve this during his second term but sadly, nada.

      • They get the job first, then the visa. People I know are getting jobs in IT.

  2. Imagine what the suicide rate would be without Coppelia?

  3. Jacobo

    Sorry, but I don’t think this sentence is written like you wanted. Try to follow “rather”. You need a vacation….

    “I’d venture a guess that rather than any political paradigm, imperialism, slavery and neo-colonialism (plus their oppressive after effects), combined with lost or tossed love are largely to blame.”

  4. John

    The link to Havana Good Time doesn’t work and hasn’t for several weeks. I did PM you via Thorntree re this but no response
    Also I don’t the café details that you said some time ago were in the App still haven’t been added?

  5. Rose

    feel better .. have a good summer. enjoy the warm ocean water let it heal you.

  6. maudiaz

    Talk about a season-ending cliff-hanger, Conner! 🙂

  7. Cort Greene

    You have worked hard for years, I think in the next period of time, I am sure you will work even harder as capitalism goes full tilt boogie in Cuba. Have a good summer camarada!

  8. John

    Thanks yes that works although pressing on the one to the right of this page still doesn’t.

    • Thanks for the head’s up and follow through, John. Ive contacted the developers (I know nothing about this tech stuff, nor could I do much about it as it takes 30 minutes to load a page as simple as google on cuba’s crappy dial up) and they’re aware of the problem. Unfortunately, due to aforementioned crappy dial up, Im having trouble updating the link on the right of the page. I’ll work it out (or not). Es Cuba.

  9. Caney

    It’s hard, and at the same time the rate is high. sigh!

    I always heard in Cuba that “darse candela” was the option for desperate souls. I actually know a couple of people whose relatives chose it.

    • Im very sorry for those you know who have direct experience with self-immolation, essentially, as suicide of choice. The problem is that many times it isn’t successful. Ive seen several very burned people in the streets (women usually) and my mind always jumps to this…

  10. Danika Vrancken

    I am so saddened by this Gory. I have noticed a distinct change in a friend that I found stramge but after reading tbis im finding it alarming. I’m seeing him on a couple of weeks and I seriously need to talk to him. Thank you so much for writing about this. Xox

    • I hope your friend is ok, Danika. For everyone who has friends in Cuba: these are hard(er) times – insomuch as we’re not familiar with all the types of changes going on around us. Please let your friends and family down there know you are thinking about them and love them!

      • Danika

        I hope he’s okay too…. thanks 🙂 i’m seeing them again in a couple of weeks and i will reiterate that i’m here for them. it really scared me to see him this way. thanks again and i always let them know i am thinking of them and thank god for the emailing..easier to keep in touch.

  11. LuisC

    Traditionally, in Cuba the most common forms of suicide were, setting themselves on fire for women, and hanging themselves with a rope for men. I’m sure new methods are tried now, but those were the tow most ‘popular’ forms. I remember two cases in my hometown. A woman and a man, and each chose the above mentioned ways to end their lives. The two were not related. Cuba has always had a very high suicide rate. Perhaps people do not recognize the signs that something terrible is about to happen. Obviously many people who fall victim to depression do not seek help or don’t even know it’s available.

  12. Pingback: CUBAN DISPATCHES: Rock ‘n Roll! | Here is Havana

  13. Ali

    There’s something about your writing, that even when writing about something as depressing as the aforementioned topic, I still enjoy it…I don’t what it is..Is it mere admiration for you as an artist? or am I feeling amor platónico for my favorite blogger? I do like a woman with brains, wit and a little spice…you got it all!!! In great quantity and high quality!!! Keep’ em coming!!

    Saludos desde India…Tu camarada puertorriqueño!!!

  14. Pingback: Historias para discutir | dsarchivera

    • Now THIS is a first: wherein Im compared to Yoani Snachez (the worst part? my analysis compared to hers…and then the moment when I throw up a little in my mouth)

  15. Mauricio

    I can confirm what Conner states. My gf, who lives in Centro Habana, just told me THIS past week that an older lady, from the building immediately across from the place she lives, jumped to her death. Sad. Really really sad. 😦

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