By Daisy Valera
Cuban summer is practically eternal. Now should be the beginning of autumn, but the tropical sun continues to beat down relentlessly. Unfortunately, summer here -with its 90-plus degree heat and humidity- cannot be seen as only one season of the year.
After you’ve taken a bus or walked at least five blocks, you can begin see how the Caribbean climate is also an economic problem.
After your clothes have become drenched in sweat, you’re ready to upend a quart of soda pop, but what’s even more draining is that they charge two pesos a glass.
The need for something to drink persists throughout the day, therefore almost daily I get home after having spent ten pesos on Kool-Aid or pop.
Up to this point the situation is tolerable, to a certain degree. But if your fan happens to break down in this wondrous climate, everything becomes more embroiling; you’re forced to decide between not sleeping and paying the exorbitant price quoted by a self-employed electrician.
My fan died a week ago, and since I couldn’t get to sleep for two nights in a row, I decided to get it fixed.
I went to a state-run repair shop, a place where they offer different services – like watch repairs, cigarette lighter refills and fixing domestic appliances.
After looking at my fan, the first phrase the electrician uttered was that they didn’t have the spare part needed because the State provides almost none of those.
He did however suggest an alternative; he knew of a place where they could get me the needed part…for a mere 100 pesos; that’s to say almost half the monthly minimum take-home wage in Cuba.
To avoid having to spend yet another sleepless night, I gave in to the extortion.
But since I couldn’t stop thinking about this, a whole series of questions and doubts came to mind.
For example, if there are people in the street who provide the parts needed to repair of household goods, this means that the odd-jobbers are getting those components from somewhere, most likely from some state-run business or workshop.
Likewise, I also can’t understand why electrician cooperatives haven’t been set up so that, with State aid in obtaining the parts, they could reduce the price of repair work.
What me happened to me could also happen to anyone in need of a plumber, a bricklayer and even a carpenter.
These are occupations that have not been given their do importance and the number of such skilled workers is highly deficient in Cuba.
Every day, fewer people go into these types of trades, and our society is suffering the consequences: high prices and shakedowns.