the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956
Goshen students in Cuba

Gaugua 90

Senior Tom Kelley, a theater major from Goshen, heard perspectives of Cuban people and focused on them in a one-act play. Gaugua 90, written for his final project, explores aspects of Cuban life - from socialism, to male-female relationships, to transportation. The characters, a Cuban and an American tourist, are waiting at a bus stop for bus guagua number 90. The dialogue, Kelley said, came directly from conversations he had while in Cuba. The following is an edited excerpt:

Cuban: And what do you hear about Cuba? You said you expected us to hate your country.

Tourist: Cuba is a mysterious place to the people living in the U.S. It is this forbidden island. And we have no real clue what life is like here. We can see pictures and read guidebooks. But that still only gives us a tourist's view. The old cars and the restaurant where Hemingway used to drink may be interesting and, well interesting, but it doesn't help explain or describe how Cubans actually live.

C: You can see pictures? There are pictures of Cuba in the United States?

T: Yes. It is an incredibly beautiful island you live on, but you know that.

C: Yes, I do. We do.

T: But from the pictures of the impressive sights, we don't learn about your thoughts, how you live.

C: And now after a visit you understand?

T: No, not completely, really not even partly, but so much better than I did before. And much more than the average person back in the states.

C: And what have you found?

T: The pictures of the old cars that I saw before coming here made me smile. I thought it would be great to see all these old beasts roaring up and down the streets. But as I walked the streets a bit, watching people, greasy and grimy, bending over their car engines, I realized that an almost-50-year-old car doesn't just continue to run. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to keep up the maintenance. Then I learned about all the homemade auto parts that Cubans make to keep their cars running. Incredible. That alone shows a bit of the soul, the Cuban spirit. And here in line waiting for a bus, I mean, in the States people would complain so much after waiting this long, but people just sit and talk or think. And, my God, the line for ice cream at the ... what is that place ... the famous ice cream -

C: Coppelia.

T: Yeah. Coppelia, the line there, I'm told, can last for three or four hours, yet people wait.

C: People do not wait for things in the United States?

T: Sometimes, but rarely with the patience seen here. The pace of life there is so much faster. If people have to wait 10 minutes for ice cream, they whine and complain, or just leave. And another thing that helps show he spirit of the Cuban people is the Malecon.

C: Ah, you like our Malecon?

T: Yeah, I do. I spent a night there, actually two. The lights of the city cast an orange glow on the wall, and the noise of the crashing sea relaxes everyone. It's like visiting a place of fantasy.

C: It must be nice to come and enjoy the "fantasy" of our island, and then fly home without experiencing the pain.

T: Wait a second. I thought you were preaching about the perfection of you island not 10 minutes ago.

C: Not perfection. In my eyes there are advantages. But the fact of that matter is our country does not have much. We all live in small homes, rarely with enough room for everyone to be comfortable; often, a family sleeps together in a bed. Our rationed food will, many times, not be enough, and we have to spend our limited money on food, while we still need to pay for our clothes, buses - and earlier you wondered why we cannot save money and take a trip.

T: You're right. I'll leave here without the whole picture. And maybe it is unfair that I get to come experience the best Cuba has to offer, and then leave. My opinion is bound to be tainted, I guess. (PAUSE) I do have one question, though.

C: Yes?

T: How do you handle only having one newspaper and three channels for TV?

C: (LAUGHS) You Americans. You always need constant action, something always to keep you busy. You just get used to it. Maybe some day things will be different. Who knows, maybe one day your imperialistic country will gain control of us and bring us cable. (LAUGHS) But not without a fight.

T: You don't want democracy?

C: (LAUGHS AGAIN) Democracy? (SERIOUSLY) Do you really call what you have "democracy?" When the man running your country is not the one most people voted for? No, no thank you, we don't want that kind of "democracy." ...

T: We are 90 miles away from each other, both our national pastimes are baseball, and we are both a very proud people. If we could work together it would be a great relationship.

C: You know, changes in your government would have to happen, but I agree with you.

T: And changes in yours. (HE SMILES)

C: Ah, here comes guagua 90.

T: Excellent, that wasn't so bad, the wait, I mean. Thanks for the chat.

C: Not a problem.


C: Hurry, friend, I could talk longer but I don't think you want that.