HAVANA TIMES — I was walking past the CIMEX stores, in the Sierra Maestra building in Miramar, and I saw a huge line. I was surprised as the home hygiene department is normally not very busy and empty most of the time… but in the face of this strange occurrence I thought to ask what was going on and then I was told that toilet paper was being sold, a product that has been almost completely absent in stores for several months now.
I immediately took my place in the line, to see if I could get my hands on a few packets. People were acting quite desperately, as if food was on sale. Two women were arguing because one of them wanted to jump the line and they nearly got into a fistfight; they insulted each other with all kinds of curse words and then a great commotion broke out, and then of course, the line lost all order.
But, this isn’t anything strange in our country, as we are used to waiting in lines to buy or do anything ever since we were born. Situations lacking all respect and violence among people arise in a lot of lines. For some people, this has become a way to vent their stress.
In spite of the racket, the salespeople didn’t seem troubled in the slightest and continued to say: go inside in fives…
When things had calmed down, after two hours, I could go inside and I realized that they weren’t only selling toilet paper, but washing up sponges, ammonia, shower gel, liquid detergent. And of course, all of this was super expensive for ordinary Cubans.
On the whole, everyone was looking for the toilet paper that sells for 1.20 CUC* for a pack of four rolls, but the price of these was more than 4 CUC for 6 rolls. I chose to buy paper towels which cost 3.25 CUC. A foreign lady burst out laughing when I told her it was very good quality, and if she knew just how many kinds of paper we Cubans have used throughout our existence, she would have laughed even harder, or cried and felt pity.
Newspaper, bond paper, pages out of old books and even bibles have been used for this purpose. Some prefer to use soap and a towel, that way your behind ends up squeaking clean…
It’s extremely uncomfortable, for women, to not dry themselves when they finish urinating, your clothes get ruined, as the smell impregnates your underwear which isn’t pleasant at all.
The population hasn’t been informed of why there is a shortage. It seems ironic that two days before I had watched a TV report where they showed a toilet paper factory and just how well production is going… and where exactly are these toilet rolls? Why are they being imported instead of fixing machinery and solving the possible problems we have with national production?
Someone I know who has the means buys wet wipes to clean herself. She spends a fortune every month.
At the La Puntilla shopping center, the famous Kleenex tissues appeared and are selling for 2 CUC. “We’re making progress,” an old lady mumbled next to me. I would say that we are making progress with a greater number of imported products while national production is being reduced even further.
People at the bottom don’t have much choice: either you eat or you clean your behind.
*Note: 1 USD is exchanged for 0.87 CUC