Meet Lola, The Girl From Havana

Meet Lola, The Girl From Havana

The truth about “Lola” that Camila Cabello and Yotuel’s new song didn’t say.

Lola was the smartest in the school
She was a supernova
She had a mind beyond her time
It was a thrill to know her (Camila Cabello, Lola)

This is the true story of a girl named Lola. She was the smartest girl at her school in La Habana, Cuba. She refused to accept any place other than first. She excelled so well in her studies that she was allowed by the government to continue her studies at the university.

But before she could enter college, when she was just 15 years old, she had to pack her bags, leave her parents and her home, and head out to work the labor camps at la escuela al campo. This is a requirement for all 15-year-old girls in Cuba. She wasn’t happy about having to work in the Tobacco fields but it is her dream to become a doctor or a scientist so she knew she must leave.

While at the education labor camps she fell head over heels over her attractive male science teacher. After a short love affair, she became pregnant and was sent back home to her family to prepare for a baby as an unwed mother. The father was already married with children and did not live in her hometown. She was on her own.

But still, she dreamt of becoming a doctor, though she knew in Cuba her credentials would not belong to her. Lola, her credentials, and her new professional status would become commodities of the communist government.

She’d remind herself that doctors only made $90/month and that would not be enough earnings to afford to buy food for herself, her family, and her new baby. Only American dollars are accepted on the black market and that’s the only place where she can find and buy what she needs for her baby.
The food she receives from the government every month through rations is hardly enough to nourish her and the baby daily. There just isn’t enough milk for her baby.

They remain unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and hungry even after each meal. She starves on most days so that her child won’t have to feel as hungry.

You see, Lola doesn’t have family outside of Cuba like her friends do, whose families in the U.S. regularly send them money via remittances. Lola can’t seem to find the money she needs to survive. If Lola becomes a doctor, she would not be able to afford to feed her family either. Plus the government would force her to treat patients in other counties with the medicine they can’t use on their own Cuban children and that would mean being separated from her family. Her baby is now more important than her career.

She had dreams, she’d fall in love some place like Barcelona
Lola, Lola, Lola, Lola
She could’ve walked on the moon, yeah
She could’ve found us a cure
But family didn’t have no food
And she had to leave school to work (Camila Cabello, Lola)

So Lola leaves school and her dreams to work. Oh, how lucky she was to land a job working at the government-run retail store in the nice hotels where the tourists stay. The work is fun. The pay is comparable to that of a doctor. The sacrifice she makes daily is worth it, she thinks.

Each day after an 8-hour shift on her feet she must stand in a crowd of hundreds to listen to the President speak for approximately two hours. Well, she doesn’t actually listen to the speech, she admits. She stands, chants when the others chant, and patiently monitors her watch until she is dismissed and is able to return home to her mom with her baby.

She thinks it’s worth it because the job attracts another source of income she dares not speak of; the most lucrative work for a young Cuban woman.

Image by 506967 on pixabay of a woman sitting down in wearing lingerie and holding jewelry

The job at the shops brings her into contact with tourists — many single, unaccompanied male tourists from places like Russia, Canada, Italy, Spain, and other countries around the world except the U.S. Lola finds a means to an end with these tourists by showing them a good time on the streets of Habana. She makes one years’ earnings in one day if she’s lucky.

She thinks, that maybe she will find love or a Visa in one of these tourists. Maybe he will want to marry her and take her with him to Europe or even Barcelona — anywhere where she will be free; anywhere except Cuba.

In exile, she knows that she will be able to send to her family in Cuba the money they will need to survive. Maybe, if she is really lucky she will be able to get her family out of Cuba.

Nobody breaks the ceiling
Nobody where she’s from
Nobody breaks the ceiling, yeah (Camila Cabello, Lola) 
Image by CDD20 on pixabay of a woman's face, her mouth has prison bars, a person is seen behind bars

Lola can’t let anyone know her plans or dreams of freedom. Lola can’t speak of them out loud for she may be overheard by the local chivatas of the neighborhood comité — the neighborhood spies that tell the government everything you do, and if they don’t like you — what you don’t do.
All of those dreams are fading slowly, slowly
She knows the stories ‘bout the police, police
It’s just the way it is so don’t speak, don’t speak (Camila Cabello, Lola
She doesn’t want to be the object of an act of repudiation at the hands of the regime and its puppets. These chivatas would call her Gusano, throw rotten eggs at her house, and be given free rein by the regime to harass her to no end. No, she can’t speak.

If they knew of her dreams for freedom or Libertad, the police would come to her house and arrest her like they do all dissidents; detain her for hours or days; force her to violate herself; fabricate lies about her, and then sentence her to prison for more than 10 years, maybe even 20 years like the #11J protesters.

Or worst, if she dares speak out against the regime, they may disappear her, traffic her even; she may never be seen again. These are the things that happen to Cubans who vocalize their disagreement with the government.

She can’t speak. She won’t speak or she may never see her child and family again. No no, she can’t speak of her dreams. She can’t speak of her dreams of freedom.

She believed the world they promised her, but now she’s older
She’s seen the people disagree and disappear
The power’s out for days
No food is on its way
Nothing changes
This ain’t the dream they sold us
Lola, Lola, Lola
She could’ve walked on the moon, yeah
Could’ve found us a cure
But she worried ‘bout her children
Ninety miles till the shore (Camila Cabello, Lola)
Image by dassel on pixabay of cuban school children

When Lola was a child she was taught at school to fear the big bad imperialist Yankee American government eagerly waiting to attack Cuban soil. She first learned about this threat in her kindergarten picture book. She believed what she read — that the President of Cuba was the highest moral authority. 
She was conditioned to worship Fidel as if he was a God.

But she didn’t know what God really was because she wasn’t allowed to openly practice religion. The Cuban government had outlawed religion. Her mom often recounts the time she was baptized in secret as a baby.

But as she grew older she noticed that the U.S. was not eager to attack them, as she was taught to believe. She now knows everything the Cuban regime tells them is stricken with lies to control and manipulate them. People in the exile community call it propaganda. Every Cuban knows of these lies though they fear admitting it; until they get out.

Lola now knows the written texts in her books are lies. She knows because she sees her friends in the U.S. on social media living La Buena Vida with their plates full of food she has never seen and the freedom to travel around the world as she dreams. They live in newly constructed houses, not like the ruin she calls home without running water and regular power — a slow ticking bomb to eventual collapse. How bad could it really be to live in the U.S. she wonders? It’s only 90 miles away.
She ponders, that if she can’t find a tourist to get her out, maybe she can build herself a raft and, on a good day, launch it across the 90 miles stretch to Key West. Or maybe she’ll launch it to Central America and walk her way across the Mexican border, she strategizes.
Se pone bien bonita | She makes herself very pretty
Como lista pa’ un desfile | As if ready for a parade
Le prometieron ser la | They promised her she’d be
Reina del Caribe | The queen of the Caribbean
Pero alguien le cambió | But someone changed her
El guión de cine | movie script
Y comenzar de nuevo | And to begin anew
Solo pide | Is all she asks
Del bajo mundo ella proviene | To the shadow world she goes
Cuanto vales cuanto tienes | What is your worth? How much do you have?
Ese es el precio de mi Lola | That’s the price of my Lola
Cuando no hay salida | When there is no way out
Quiere libertad | She wants freedom
Quiere patria y vida | She wants homeland and life
(Camila Cabello featuring Yotuel, Lola)
Nobody’s listening
So she won’t speak
Won’t speak
All of those dreams are fading slowly, slowly
She knows the stories ‘bout the police, police
It’s just the way it is so don’t speak, don’t speak
(Camila Cabello, Lola)
Quiso sacarse el dolor | She wanted to get rid of her pain
Matando su corazón | That is killing her heart
Ella soñaba volar | She dreamt of flying
Pero el avión nunca despegó| But the plane never took off
Cuanto sufre el paso | How much she suffers in the passing
Del tiempo y siempre sola | Of time and always alone
En mi Havana cuantas Lola’s | In my Habana how many Lola’s
(Camila Cabello featuring Yotuel, Lola)
One day Lola receives an unexpected visit from her baby daddy. He has come to take their child away. His Visa has been approved and he has been granted permission to leave Cuba with their son. Though this breaks her heart, she knows her child will lead a better life with his father in the U.S.

She doesn’t fight him. She doesn’t speak. In silence, with her broken heart and her dreams to fly, she will continue to plan her escape to freedom and her son one day.

Lola is every girl born in communist Cuba with dreams to fly beyond the surrounding waters that imprison her.

"Quiere Libertad! Quiere Patria y Vida!"  

This story was written by Michelle Marie Writes on originally published on, inspired by the song Lola by Camila Caballo and Yotuel.  


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