Dariela Aquique

A retired Cuban buying his rationed bread roll. Photo: Caridad

A curious and interesting report by journalist Marais Suarez was featured on the national television news recently. In it she interviewed dentistry specialists who explained the need and importance of people replacing their toothbrushes three or four times a year.

She also spoke with people who sell these in the so-called “industrial markets” (Spanish: mercados industriales) and asked how they set the prices for these items, to which they responded that these were established by the Ministry of Finances and Prices.

The report included film footage on the factory where these items are produced, which is in one of the country’s central provinces. This being the case, these are domestically produced items that do not fall in the category of imported commodities, which are typically much more expensive.

Later came questions directed toward consumers about their thoughts concerning this product. Everyone responded that these items were a little expensive given how the average wages in Cuba are so low and the fact of these items being everyday objects that need to be periodically replaced.

Toothbrushes in Cuba sell for $ 10 pesos (about $.40 USD) for adults and 6 pesos (about $.24 USD) for children. While some people may find these reasonable prices, for Cubans they’re expensive, particularly if one takes into consideration that the monthly income for retirees, for example, ranges from 200 to 250 pesos ($8 to $10.00 USD).

Most people are also saddled with payments on cooking appliances and refrigerators, which were distributed across the island as part of the “Energy Revolution” campaign. However these ended up putting almost the entire country in debt since households had to take out loans from the nation’s savings and loan bank to buy these appliances. In addition, this lender charged excessive interest rates.

But this story shouldn’t stop here. I remember a few years ago when these products were sold only in hard currency, making them even more expensive.

So I wondered: What about the other items that are basic hygienic necessities, such as deodorant or razors? When will these cease being sold only in hard currency so that they’ll be affordable for retirees, students or simple workers?

Aren’t these objects also manufactured relatively inexpensively here in our country while being vital for personal and collective hygiene?

Will the journalist have to present us with similar reports concerning each of the other basic bathroom supplies like the toothbrushes?


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

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