Everyday from morning to night, the whole Cuba impatiently waits for a piece of news – a particular one: three numbers, the first of which is called “fixed”, while the other two are known as “consecutive”. For some, the lucky combination of numbers may come as relief from permanent hardship and sometimes it can even change somebody’s fate.
The lottery has its origin in Miami and it is broadcast twice a day on Telemundo, at 2pm and 8pm, after which it immediately sets out to the street. To avoid any sneaks that could be nearby, the winning numbers are usually communicated over the phone.
However, there are many other gambling games in Cuba. In fact, for many Cubans, gambling seems to be the only chance of improving their economic situation, as they believe that “of luck and death there is no escape.”
For instance, in the neighbourhood of the park known as “La Normal”, near the Latin Baseball stadium (the largest baseball stadium in the country) there are places where you can make a bet on one of 16 teams competing in the national championship. If you are lucky, you can cash your winnings at the end of the game.
Yet, you can see much more dramatic spectacles when rambling through the capital: cock-fighting, dog-fighting or even much rarer contests such as pure 19th century English-style boxing. In the municipality of Arrollo Naranjo, for example, there are competitions of young fighters surrounded by betters, in which the one who first falls down to the sand loses the battle.
Also, gambling is frequent in sugar factory towns, where there are communities of sugar cane workers (“bateyes”), who gamble out of boredom. Facing hardships incomparable to those experienced by people in the cities, these “peasants” gather at night to throw dice or play 28-piece domino. The price of each game is set beforehand.
Dog-fighting, which some find disgusting due to its bloody nature, is getting more and more popular. It has even been captured in the film entitled Conducta (“Behaviour”), which has had a great impact on the population. The main character of the film – a young boy, dedicates himself to training fighting dogs to make money.
Kiosks sell “Horoscopes” of Walter Mercado, you can buy “Lucky Horseshoes” or “Secret Cabals” with the analysis of the “tree of life”, which tells you how to find your “winning number” for a particular day, and that’s not everything. People are given many other lucky chances on a daily basis. It’s quite common that people buy a blank notebook and spend most of the day doing this new-age arithmetic.
It seems that Cuba has become a country of “mathematicians”. When there’s little to do, luck comes to make up for the lack of real opportunities. At least there is a number you can dream of and dreaming doesn’t cost a thing.