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.