THE STANDARD OF LIVING IN CUBA’S REPUBLICAN ERA
By Humberto (Bert) Corzo*
La Nueva Cuba
Octubre 1, 2002
Aníbal Escalante, Cuba’s Popular Socialist Party (PSP) General Secretary, refuting the theory that the revolutions are only possible where people’s poverty is deep-rooted, said in1961 in reference to Cuba before 1959: “Cuba is, in reality, one of the Latin American countries where the masses had a high standard of living. If theory were to be correct, then revolutions should have occurred first in Haiti, Colombia, or even in Chile where the masses were much poorer than Cuba’s in 1952 or in 1958” (1).
Juan F. Noyola, Mexican Marxist economist, during his stay in Cuba at the beginning of the Revolution in his conferences promoted by official organizations said: “The social structure in Cuba was such that it was one of the very few countries in Latin America, with the exception of perhaps Costa Rica and Uruguay, where the distribution of wealth was fairly even, unlike countries like Mexico” (2).
According to Cuba’s Leví Marrero: “An indication of the standard of living of Cubans’ poorest was the universal use of shoes even in the most remote rural places. The shoeless Latin American was only a bad dream in the 1950’s Cuba, where the national production of shoes (excluding imports) exceeded 14 millions of pairs a year for a population of little more than 6 million” (1).
In 1958 the middle class made up more than 33% of the population according to the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Pan-American Union. Due to the growing economy the basic needs of Cuba’s population were covered. The Census of 1953 showed that 30% of the work force depended on the agricultural sector. Ginsburg in his Economic Atlas (3), among 97 countries analyzed with regard to the active population working in agriculture ranked Cuba as number 30. This analysis changed the traditional vision of Cuba as an agricultural country, placing it among the industrialized ones. The per capita income of 1958 ranked Cuba number 31 at world level in Ginsburg’s table. That same year 62% of Central Americans and 55% of Latin Americans were dependent on agriculture for their subsistence.
Cuba during the 50’s was considered one of the most developed countries in Latin America. According to a study done by Eugene Stanley of the Committee of Exterior Relations of the U.S., who analyzed 100 countries positioned Cuba along with the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., as being among the top 19 intermediate to developed countries in the world (5).
The previous information shows clearly, without the shadow of a doubt, that Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1958 was fairly distributed in comparison to Latin America and the rest of the world.
Comparing the GDP per capita of the year 1958 of $356 with the year 2000 of $1700, we can see that the growth factor is 4.78. In order to obtain the real growth factor is necessary to divide the previous factor by the change in the inflation index during the same period of time equal to 5.96 (6). This transaction yields a real growth factor of 0.80, equivalent to a decrease of the GDP since it is less than one.
How is possible that a society like Cuba’s under Castro’s communist system, in which practically everybody is poor, can be preferable to the Cuban society of the republican era where some were poor, others were of the middle class and a few were rich?
The great majority of Cubans in the island, if given the chance will choose the opportunity to a better life under capitalism over the sheer poverty guaranteed by Castro’s tyranny.
1. Leví Marrero, Geografía de Cuba, 1966
2. Informe CEPAL, 1960
3. Norton Ginsburg, Atlas of Economic Development, 1961
4. UCLA, Statistical Abstracts of Latin America, 1952-70´s
5. R. Espinosa, Elementos de Geografía de Cuba
6. Humberto Corzo, Comparative Study of Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Based on Existing
Statistical Data During The Republic and today’s communist system. La Nueva Cuba, julio 30, 2002.
*Humberto (Bert) Corzo nació en 1935 en Itabo, Matanzas, Cuba, y a los dos meses los padres se trasladaron a la ciudad de La Habana. Recibió su educación elemental y secundaria en el Colegio de Belén en Marianao, La Habana. Graduado de La Universidad de La Habana con el título de Ingeniero Civil en 1962.Desde su arribo a los Estados Unidos en 1969 como exiliado se estableció en Los Angeles, California, obteniendo la registración como Profesional Engineer en 1972. Cuenta con más de 40 años de experiencia en la rama de la Ingeniería Estructural involucrado en el desarrollo de proyectos, diseño, supervisión, especificaciones, estimado de costos e inspección de todo tipo de construcciones que incluyen desde puentes hasta edificios de múltiple pisos. Miembro de la American Society of Civil Engineers y de la Sociedad Cubana de Ingenieros Civiles en el Exilio.