Mending or Making Bras in Cuba 

By Esther Zoza

HAVANA TIMES – You can find a bra at any market in any other country in the world. Yet this necessary women’s garment is out of many Cubans’ reach, and lately you can only buy it on the illicit market.

My grandmother and then my mother made them for me while growing up. Once an adult, after I got my first paycheck, I went to the dressmakers that dedicated themselves to this labor, but this venture is just a memory now. 

This noble profession has unfortunately disappeared and now you have the women making miracles and fixing them up at sky-high prices instead.  Then, we had dual currency and I wasn’t able to buy them either. Back then, we could buy two or three packets of chicken legs for the same price.

I belonged to that first generation that wore their cousins’ hand-me-downs.  I was never ashamed of this. Over time, buying a bra became something imaginary, like it did for so many other young people, with more urgent things taking precedence. It was normal for me to become an expert in “hacer la palomita” at an early age.

Hacer la palomita in Cuba is washing the same clothes you wore the entire day in the evening or night, so you can wear it again the next day. Time has passed by and made me forget the troubles I’ve had to live with without this garment, which I not only had to wash late at night, but also mend. 

Focused on surviving as happy as I can be, this scarcity just became a part of my everyday routine, like so many others.

Last Monday, the sad issue of bra shortages came knocking on my door again. This time, in front of my friend Claudia.

Claudia came running to me, a regular Cuban, for help, asking to borrow this cursed garment, so she could wear a low-cut blouse. 

After bursting out in laughter because of how absurd her request was, I had no other choice but to share my troubles. Confirming our grandparents’ saying that you only believe what the eyes can see, I lifted my shirt and showed her my bodice, made out of half a pair of panty hose.      

Read more from Esther Zoza here on Havana Times.

Esther Zoza

I was born in the 60s. I love my country and its simple and sacrificed people. I like the arts, particularly literature. In music I enjoy traditional and contemporary trova, also opera and instrumental music. I respect all religions. I like esoteric and mystical subjects; I also enjoy the enigmas of the universe. I believe above all things in God. I am persistent and disciplined to meet my goals. I like the countryside. I live near the sea. I believe in relationships and love in all its manifestations.