Renovated Store, New Products

Daisy Valera

Near 23rd and 12th Streets, Vedado, Havana. Photo: Yosvanny Deya

A strange new outlet has appeared on the corner of 23rd and 12th streets, in the Havana district of Vedado.

Near this same intersection you can find the best cinema in Cuba (in terms of the quality of its movies), the most luxurious pizzeria (among those sold in national pesos), and other various shops like cafes, restaurants, art galleries and places to listen to diverse types of music.

Though all this makes the corner a busy area, the place that opened up there a few days ago managed to steal everyone’s attention.

It’s known as “Varieties 23 & 12,” and what was most astonishing was that —despite this being a large, recently renovated, clean, organized and well lit store (typical of “dollar stores”)— what was being sold there could be bought with domestic currency. This is to say, products can be bought in Cuban National Pesos (MNs) and not in hard-currency Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). (One CUC is equivalent to 25 MNs.)

This caught my attention because I was passing by there on my way to get some coffee when I couldn’t believe the huge line I saw.

I went up to the window and could witness that in this store they were selling —incredibly enough— products that we Cubans had only seen in “dollar stores” selling in CUCs. I made a quick calculation but didn’t come up with a very favorable tally: the products there were still going at high prices.

What was still amazing was that this store gave us Cubans, peering through the picture window, the joy of seeing basic items being sold in our dear national currency.

What came to my mind when I left was a comment I had heard almost a month earlier.

Someone had told me that all products would eventually start selling in Cuban pesos, which is something that has been demanded by the Cuban people for a long time.

It’s a shame that this person who made the prediction also believed this would lower the cost of products and that our currency would strengthen.

However, it’s not happening like that.  Our currency continues to be unbearably devalued.

The line outside the new store made me feel that we Cubans should not be satisfied with only a change from one paper to another; that would mean us being taken for blind and would leave our country in the hands of those who are not the working people.

5 thoughts on “Renovated Store, New Products

  • Reply to janine; Cubans can contribute to the Chinese economy just like the rest of the world does.

  • Great article Daisy–nice to see the opening of ‘choice’

  • Daisy

    Your post reminded me when I was in the university. I satisfy my hunger eating at the pizzeria on 23 and 12
    I used to walk from 12 and Malecon where I used to reside as a student and sometimes I could afford to eat spaghetti or pizza and if I was lucky see a movie in the Charles Chaplin.

  • Daisy, a very good article. There should of course be only one currency in your country; and prices should not be exploitative.

    Does anyone in Cuba know about the consumer-owned cooperative store concept pioneered by workers in 1844 in Rochdale, England? This concept made a “tweak” to the failed cooperatives inspired by Robert Owen, and the new, “cash-only” stores immediately became a successful mass movement. (They have lasted to this day all over the world–albeit with certain conservative drawbacks.)

    I wonder if a group of working people in Cuba might pioneer a market or store–or chain of stores, like the massive worker- and consumer-owned coop grocery chain in Spain–for various types of retail outlets? Such chains probably could deliver quality goods at the most favorable prices to consumers, if the Rochdale principles could be employed creatively.

    Thanks for a provocative article.

  • does this mean that cubans can now purchase primarily unnecessary oil-derived plastic products produced by slave labourers in china like the rest of us?

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