Domestic migration: I am going to the village, today is my day

“I am going to the village / Today is my day / I will cheer up my whole soul”

Not a few Cubans on this side of the Caribbean danced to the rhythm of this song, performed by the Mexican trio Los Panchos.

Today, it is probable that lots of Cubans, especially young people, do not know about this song, not to mention Los Panchos. However, the pace of their song is still paving its way through people and villages, and not for a day, but to put behind rurality.

It was an issue that was highlighted in the most recent meeting of the Government Commission to address demographic dynamics where, together with the contraction in the number of births, the low global fertility rate, the increase in aging, the natural decrease in the population and other topics, the increase in internal migrations popped red flags.

Despite the many daily emergencies that overwhelm us today, neither this nor any other issue associated with demographic dynamics in Cuba should be a second-tier matter.

So much so, that Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, deputy head of the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), stated that the demographic movements of the country, of provinces, of municipalities, “must be taken into consideration because we have to project ourselves into the future. It is a scenario that we must address due to the implications and effects on a series of trends of lower capacities.”

When commenting on the preliminary statistical information offered at that meeting, he also stated that it ratifies trends and defines behaviors that affect the future of our country, for its economic and social development.

The ONEI deputy head specified that in Latin America, Cuba is the only country that has a statistical system to measure domestic migrations, which expresses, as part of the social organization of the country, the statistical importance that is given to the issue.

Why leave the countryside behind?

A very interesting analysis that grabbed headlines at the TV program Cuadrando la Caja, aired last September 17th, addressed precisely this issue of domestic migrations, which Alfonso Fraga prefers to call migrations between rural and urban areas, because that is what characterizes it.

The 2022 Statistical Yearbook of Cuba, released last year, indicates that at that time, a total of 65,978 Cubans had moved within the country from their territory of residence to another, with Havana, Artemisa and Matanzas being the provinces where most domestic migrants headed.

The MSc. Ofelia Rodríguez, from the Center for Demographic Studies of the University of Havana, specified in the television program that one of the main factors that lead to these displacements are the living and working conditions. Therefore, residents move to where, comparatively, they find better opportunities in this regard.

The specialist added that there were also other reasons, even within the agricultural sector, because not all activities have the same incentives, even beyond salaries or performance-based payments.

Among them, she mentioned the issue of product marketing, problems with roads, transportation, fuel for cooking food… which also affect the home environment.

Women, the ones who leave

Since the day we got married

To date, I have been working.

I want you to know that I’m not willing

To bury my life in a corner

It is no secret that, despite institutional and several kinds of efforts, gender relations are more asymmetrical in rural areas.

This means that women are predominantly the ones who leave for urban areas.

Access to Health, Education and other services means that, especially due to shortcomings with transportation, they emigrate trying to bring their children to schools and hospitals, especially located in geographies that are not the classic rural settlements.

And like a snake biting its own tail, the low female involvement in paid employment and the excessive domestic burden on their shoulders are one of the main brakes on the development of rural women, who, according to the aforementioned 2022 Statistical Yearbook of Cuba, only represent the 18.5% of those dedicated to agriculture, livestock, hunting, and forestry.

A Human Development report released that year about Cuba, states, however, that in terms of higher education, for every 100 people with a university level in rural areas, 57 are women.

The contrasts are significant, because at that time they represented about 46% of the rural population, but they occupied only a little over a quarter of the economically active people in those non-urban areas.

From the knowledge of these realities, there are many studies, efforts, and regulations to close such gaps and continue blurring the patriarchal gaps, which have solid roots in the countryside.

Is moving away from town or province the solution?

Reducing domestic migratory flows and mitigating the depopulation of rural environments is a goal yet to be achieved, considering the population characteristics of each area and territory.

Among the alternatives for the inhabitants of rural areas to anchor their lives in their lands, in addition to the Turquino Plan, the program for the delivery of land in usufruct is highlighted, which, despite its ups and downs, already has more than 200 thousand beneficiaries.

In particular, the Director of Personnel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Adriana Ballester Hernández, noted that in this sense, it is about favoring young people who are discharged from Active Military Service and live in these areas.

She also recalled that regarding the intersectoral strategy, there are programs in the educational field that prioritize careers such as veterinary medicine and also technical and professional education for these places.

Such is the impact of the issue of domestic migrations in Cuba, especially when it is linked to food production, that it was not for nothing that the Deputy Prime Minister, Inés María Chapman Waugh, pointed out in the aforementioned meeting of the Government Commission for the attention to the demographic dynamics that “Then we have to see how the causes of the problems are reflected in the today’s life and in the strategies of the municipalities, since there we can find the reasons behind migrations. Sometimes, the conditions in those places are not suitable. This issue must be reviewed in depth in the municipalities and provinces.”

Also, the Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, insisted at the conclusion of that important meeting on the importance of assessing objectively and comprehensively the potential of each territory to face the impacts and consequences of the demographic scenario in the short and medium terms.

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