Cheaper Markets in Upscale Neighborhoods

Erasmo Calzadilla 

State run agro market. Photo: Caridad

A group of us have been going to state-run farmers’ markets in the relatively upscale Vedado neighborhood to buy cheaper food, since otherwise our money just doesn’t stretch.  This was written about previously in an entry by Daisy Valera, a writer for Havana Times.

Fortunately we’re still young and can carry the backpacks full of produce all the way to the outlying Alamar or Electrico neighborhoods.  Not everybody can handle all that; old people, for example, who are increasingly lost in this caiman-shaped island of the Caribbean.  Frankly, they don’t stand a chance.

It’s ironic that the most wonderful and least expensive markets run by the state as showcases are in the most prosperous neighborhoods of the city, where there’s no problem with the circulation of cash.  It makes you want to ask why there’s such a distribution that only deepens an already profoundly deep abyss.  Only the most cynical would even consider thinking that it’s because of high-ranking functionaries who “coincidently” reside in that area.

If the intent is to locate produce in a central, affordable and equidistant site, why not situate it in Central Havana or in the Cuatro Caminos facility, where the neediest people subsist? (Right beside the expensive un-subsidized market at Cuatro Caminos there’s a park frequented by beggars and vagrants).

It’s true that the government sporadically puts on “agricultural fairs” in disadvantaged neighborhoods, or they’ll send in some trucks with produce.  But this still doesn’t address the root problem.  In the absence of rigorous control, the re-sellers monopolize most of the produce and others make a fortune ripping off people coming to buy food for their families.

Consistent with the verticalista (top-down) model around which this society is organized, things only work well when directly carried out by the almighty central power or its affiliates.  Outside of that, all initiatives quickly dissolve.

Nor are many problems addressed by independent farmers on the outskirts of the city, kiosk vendors or private markets, whose prices are affordable only by people with “faith” (spelled “fe” in Spanish and standing for “Familiares en el Extranjero” – meaning “family members abroad”).

As for the organoponic gardens, another government solution, these generate increasingly less produce of increasingly worse quality (at least in the areas where we live).

The solution?  I don’t see one on the horizon – at least not at a societal level.

Our next step will be to organize our friends and buy food directly from small farmers, without intermediaries, and pray that things don’t continue to get worse.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

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One thought on “Cheaper Markets in Upscale Neighborhoods

  • Wow, Erasmo, as you say, a solution for this problem, especially one at a societal level, needs to be worked out.

    One thing that continually restricts food cooperative formation in the capitalist US and other capitalist countries is how social activists often try to address the problem. They often feel that “any” profit made on products is morally wrong, and therefore food cooperatives only last as long as the enthusiasm of the founding activists. I think this moralistic approach is based on a misconception (a misconception that can easily be removed).

    It is often thought that material and moral incentives are mutually exclusive. What this does is exclude social activists from establishing long-lasting cooperatives such as food retail enterprises. I’d say that the first step toward seeing a solution to the problem you broached is understanding that material and moral incentives are not at all mutually exclusive, but go together in a natural way and are synergistic–each needs the other.

    Perhaps what you guys need is to go around your neighborhood and 1) make note of those consumers who need less expensive food products; 2) ascertain how much tiny investment money each might put up to establish a near-by Rochdale-type food cooperative; and 3) make a determination as to whether such a retail outlet can be established, and according to what business plan. Those who would spend their time doing all this should feel at ease as to the morality of staying “in the black” and making it worth their while. Good luck.

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