Collage of Reality in Cuba

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – I don’t know what people feel like when they go to stores with prices in magnetic dollars called MLC. Personally speaking, it’s a visceral experience, a silent rage fills within me, contained like a volcano on the verge of erupting.

I never take long in there, I go straight for what I’m there for, to buy something, i.e. cans of fish or pork. There isn’t a lot more to choose from when it comes to meat, in my case. Chicken has been missing for a long time. There’s ham or tubes of minced meat, sometimes. I look at the price and see the nerve these people have. That’s when I want to burn these stores down.

A small tin of tuna or sardines which isn’t more than 100 grams costs over 2 MLC (the equivalent of 400 pesos or 2+ USD more or less), with pesos being the currency wages and pensions are paid in in Cuba.

A kilo of pork that doesn’t last more than three days for a family of four costs approximately 16 MLC, a month’s wages.

I watch people with their calm expressions and I don’t understand this attitude. I guess the majority are maintained from abroad and they don’t care about the lack of dignity or worry about dollars, which isn’t my case.

I just go in, look for what I need, and I buy a kilo and a half or pork this time for just over 23 MLC, which hurts as if I had blood taken out of my nose, eyes, mouth and ears, and then I leave.

If I stay just a few more minutes, I’m sure I’ll explode. Once outside, I take a deep breath, get some fresh air and try to change my thoughts.

That’s what my Friday and every day I have to go and buy at one of these Devil, sorry I mean, government-owned stores is like.

Trains sparkle with their absence, for a month now, ever since the country has been hit by the latest fuel crisis. That’s why I’ve headed to the highway and luckily, I get home early in the middle of a downpour.

My neighbor welcomes me back with news I was expecting: “There wasn’t any bread today either, they said there isn’t flour.” There hasn’t been bread in my god-forsaken town for a week, just like there hasn’t been any in Pinar del Rio, or almost anywhere in the country. 

Private sellers were selling it and if they have better quality flour, they’ve increased the price from 150 to 200 pesos per bag of 7 or 8 rolls.

Repression came swiftly, prices were capped and their bread also disappeared for a few days.

My plans are to go out and “mango it”, that is to say, look for mangos to compensate this hardship. We have a saying here in Cuba: “Year of mangos is a year of hunger.”

It seems to be true, because this year we’ve had more mangos than ever before and they are rotting in Cuban fields, as you’d expect, because there isn’t a commercial infrastructure that can get them to the people, especially people living in towns and cities.

This is one of the problems with socialism, a system designed to end freedom and create poverty, turning human beings into an appendix of a hypertrophic, corrupt, and bureaucratic State, which allegedly is a welfare State, but is nothing more than a poverty machine in real life.  

A system supported by weak, bitter, and envious people in Latin America who have no idea what it’s like to live under a Communist regime. People who are easy to be manipulated by populist and corrupt leaders with a vocation to be dictators, who accuse you of being Fascist if you don’t share their beliefs. But one thing’s for sure, it’s a system that works perfectly well for the appetites of the ruling caste. 

Anyway, I take a bag and a knife and head into the countryside. I spoke to Yoly this week to go and get some mangos from his farm, a childhood friend, and I’ve also been friends with his brother and parents since then. We used to hang around on the street together, and I’d eat lunch at his home a lot.

Noble people, like every guajiro. Not the kind that have workers cultivating their land, but the humble kind who break their backs working on their plots of land.

“God, Pedrito, you don’t have to ask to come, you’re like part of the family.” I got emotional, it’s been years of being apart and the mind fills with memories.

The farm is 4 kms away from my house. I’ve always liked walking long distances and visiting these places of beautiful and untouched nature, which excites my senses and brings out the thrill-seeker in me.

It’s 5:30 PM, the sky is still cloudy after the downpour, but it’s easier to walk like this. I open up a path between muddy and overgrown trails.

I meet with my friends and they fill me with Life. The return is exhausting and hard with half a bag of mangoes over my shoulders, but I get home happy and better yet, detoxed from this harsh reality.

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon’s diary here.

One thought on “Collage of Reality in Cuba

  • A bit of irony: here in San Francisco, at a nearby supermarket where we have full shelves, the one thing we didn’t get this week were mangoes. There were more than a few complaints (including one from me) to the fruits and vegetables manager about the lack of mangoes.

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