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.