Cubans Living on Credit

Dariela Aquique

Buying vegetables. Photo: Edwin Wiebe

Every month comes our hallowed payday.  However when workers collect their wages, they experience dual emotions:

 – What joy, we got paid!
– What horror, tomorrow I’ll be flat broke again!

Having worked about every day for a month, when the much-awaited date for monetary reward arrives, we all know here there are two or three ways to go through the cash within a few hours.

The first is if you go to a produce market or to any of various supermarkets, all in which the prices are alarming.  Nonetheless, there reigns a law of priority: food is sacred.

It is laughable to even think about the prices for a pound of pork or lamb (and remember: here beef is as sacred an in India).

Still, even if the protein that you put on the table is equivalent to an entire day’s work or more for some, what remains of your check for paying those frightening amounts for fruits and vegetables?

In these places you have to pay in cash and pay right there on the spot.  You’ll see how with just a few kilograms of products your work stipend becomes mutilated.

If the goods you need are for something else such as personal hygiene, clothing or footwear, you’ll have to get your money exchanged to be able to go to those stores since they charge in hard currency, which will also reduce your balance.

This paycheck will also cost you having to get up very early in the morning, jockeying to get a place on the bus, a horse drawn cart or whatever form of transportation will take you to your job.

But a new method is now emerging as a way to help with supply and demand in the black market.  Through this you’ll hear the soothing words:

“You can pay in installments.”

In this way people can buy anything from a dress, cosmetics, a purse or a TV.  Of course contracting debt with the seller in Cuba means them accepting the buyer’s word as collateral.  One puts a certain amount down and then pays off the balance over time in accordance with the price of the commodity purchased.

Paying in installments is how many parents meet the needs for personal items or clothing for them or their children.  So many times you’ll hear expressions like:

“I got paid but I owe my entire salary.”

This is how workers solve their short-term problem – by creating a mid-term one.  This leaves them with barely any money for the month, which then looks unbearably long.  But finally the yearned-for payday will return for the ordinary Cuban (the great majority), who live on installments.


One thought on “Cubans Living on Credit

  • As the incessant Capital One credit card commercial sez up here: “What’s in your wallet? (I’m afraid just moths in mine!) You’d better mail in your payments, or send your electronic transfers, in on time–or else those “teaser” rate of 12% or 16% will jump up to 27%–or even 29%–and you’ve wound up selling your soul to The Devil, just like Robert Johnson (although at least in exchange The Devil gave him the talent to croon and to play the guitar like no other. What will the devils at Capital One give you in return?!)

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