Daisy Valera

Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday I was almost happy, although it may seem that pleasing me isn’t something so easy. The titles of my posts are usually more like: “My job is going to kill me” or “My pay isn’t enough.”

I confess that I’ve given up. I’ve stopped looking for the cat with the fifth paw. Writing a happy post is too hard!

If you try to not seem so tiresome and you omit (only for a few minutes) those gratuities of (which can be read as “free”) Cuban health care and education as reasons for happiness, then what’s left for us?

I have no desire to look like I’m exaggerating or saying nothing at all. I’d rather talk about how I experienced a miracle yesterday.

The Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) simply disappeared. I said goodbye to that horrifying issue of dual currency. For a few hours I didn’t have to think about money. I focused on “points” – specifically, on 23 points.

All the workers from my job piled onto a bus and got off at Tarará, a small seafront community on the eastside of Havana.

We stopped right in front of a store with an impromptu pink paint job (evidently the pink paint was given to the store because the government imported too much) there was a sign that read: “Tienda de estímulo de presencia Tarará” (Tarara Inducement Store).

Such a name for a place, which might have seemed enigmatic to others, didn’t take us by surprise; we’re used to this kind of union/government gibberish.

The translation into a more colloquial language would read “a store with some clothes, shoes and toiletries.”

We were going there as a work incentive, with each of us assigned points to allow us to make purchases of items that were almost impossible to acquire through our wages.

This is, of course, in the interest of our company as well though. In order to work, and work well (meaning to be efficient and productive), we need to buy clothes for the job – right?

Crowded around there under the sun, restless and worried — but happy — we all formed a line at the door where we stood for what seemed several hours.

Once inside the store, we rushed around (we had only 15 minutes) trying on clothes in the corners, due to the lack of dressing rooms, making calculations, calculations, calculations… though we were more than happy.

However my 23 points reminded me that my salary isn’t nearly enough to get by, which made me bitter.

I finally decided to get two blouses (9.15 and 8.50 points respectively) and with the remaining points I got a couple bras (2.60 pts.), a bottle of shampoo (1.85), two bars of soap (0.90) and four razors (0.60 pts.).

A pair of shoes alone would have cost me more than 25 points, and most of the fragrances would have gone for over 10 each – nevertheless I ended my buying satisfied and content.

The reason for my joy was simple: I bought products that could otherwise only be purchased in stores where they accept CUCs. Plus, doing the math, I added up the following:

 

The blouses would have cost 15.50 CUCs and 11.95 CUCs, the bras would have been at least 4, the shampoo was 1.95, each bar of soap was 0.55, and each of the four razors would have put me back 0.45 CUC.

If I had purchased all this at the established price, it would have come to approximately 36.30 CUCs, somewhere around $40 USD.

But since my monthly salary is only 335 pesos (13 CUC, or about $14.50 USD), these purchases would have taken nearly three months of work for them alone.

I was so ecstatic that I almost started jumping up and down screaming “Long live the points! Long live the points!

What if my salary was in points? What if stores sold in points?

 

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

7 thoughts on “Long Live the Points!

  • If you exchange one US dollar you will receive approx. 0.87 CUC. That is about 87 CUC for 100 dolares. The difference from 1-1 is the 10% surcharge on US dollars and the rest is the change house commission.

  • Daisy,

    Can you explain how the value of the CUC is set? I thought it was on par with the US dollar. Why is it that in every article on the HT that when the CUC is given its equivalent in US dollars, the latter is always lower? What am I missing here?

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