Choreography of a Typical Line in Cuba to Buy Cooking Gas

Under a blazing August sun

The old man is one of those who can’t pay 5 pesos for someone to stand in line for him while he rests in the shade. (14ymedio)

Bench, water and a lot of patience to get a small cylinder of propane in a neighborhood of Sancti Spíritus, Cuba.

By Mercedes García (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – They begin to arrive very early. Some carry a bottle of water, others a bench to sit on, and all drag a cart to carry the tank of propane in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, Sancti Spíritus. The only shade several meters around is provided by a primitive building built in the 80s. The rest is mud and sun. The line assembles itself on the mud and under the arrows of the harsh sun. Some have got a place through the Ticket application, but most line up the old-fashioned way: one behind the other until it is their turn.

The wait time for the purchase of the tanks by the family nucleus is 26 days, but it is never met. “Now it takes you up to a month and a half to have the right to a new tank,” says Evaristo, a retiree who alternates propane “with a lifelong coal supply” to be able to cook food at home. The old man is one of those who can’t pay 5 pesos for someone to stand in line for him while he rests in the shade. For that amount and 100 more, some informal entrepreneurs even offer to take the full tank to the door of your house.

“Disabled!” shouts the employee from the small cubicle where the cylinders are dispatched. Workers line up people with disabilities and customers who got the ticket through electronic gateways. “They’re supposed to bring 100 tanks every day, but what’s coming are 20 or 30 small ones,” explains a young man waiting in line. Umbrellas and long sleeves can be seen everywhere. Nobody wants his skin scorched in the August sun.

When someone gets to the counter, the line moves slowly. Some bring their stools closer to the store, others shorten the distance with the person in front of them, and there are also those who come out of the shade next to the building to show that they are still in line and keep their position. It’s a well-learned choreography with decades of “lining up until you die,” says Evaristo.

The time for the sale exceeds 15 minutes for each consumer because they must register everything on an old laptop, check that the person really gets a new quota of propane and compare the number on the tank with the one in the database. “There are more requirements than for obtaining the Communist Party card,” a woman mocks. An old woman approaches dragging her cart through the mud and claims priority for belonging to the Cuban Association of Limited Physical Motor Ability. But there are already several like her waiting.

When noon arrives, the employee’s scream is an explosion that sends the line into pieces. “That’s all for today, we’re out of tanks!” sums up the bad news. Long faces, murmurs and phrases of discomfort are heard everywhere. Tomorrow everything will be repeated from the early hours of the morning and so on, with no hope that the line to buy propane will become shorter or easier one day.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

One thought on “Choreography of a Typical Line in Cuba to Buy Cooking Gas

  • Communist incompetence does not change. In Cuba nothing changes, not even the nappies for the regime, which is both mentally and physically constipated.

Comments are closed.