Spanish Department Store Chain Reaches Havana

Irina Pino

Inside the La Puntilla market, in Miramar, Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — For some reason I don’t understand, people’s hopes begin with a new year. They hope to have health, achieve professional success, go on trips, always good things. But, our reality isn’t the things we want, but what can be seen in everyday events.

Everything is still turned on its head: buying food and personal hygiene products continues to be a real odyssey. It’s not pleasant to see shortages at retail stores at all: detergent runs out, as does perfumed soap, toilet paper and other products in high demand.

You have to choose a day in the week to go from store to store hunting these down. If people see you walking down the street with a bag full of toilet paper rolls or cheap detergent, they immediately ask: where did you buy it?

In my neighborhood, some people got excited when they opened the market at the La Puntilla shopping center, after months of renovation work. People were expectant, but the surprise came when they found out that the supplier was none other than El Corte Ingles, the Spanish company.

Everything is extremely expensive and of course, out of any modest person’s reach, who receives an income that doesn’t even cover a third of their needs. This market hasn’t been reopened for ordinary Cubans, where a simple can of condensed milk costs 2.45 CUC (2.45 USD) and a packet of cocoa powder 100 CUP (4.25 USD). Just imagine, a box of imported chewing gum can cost up to 4 CUC. It’s laughable.

Turrons from Jijona, Spain.

Some less expensive products are still available, which are what buyers who don’t have much in their pockets are really chasing after, such as minced chicken and turkey meat, chicken drums, oil and toilet paper for 1.20 CUC (when it appears).

Wine, turrons, cereals, olives, cookies, cans of tuna, among others, seem to be targeted at foreigners who come here to visit, those Cubans who have successful private businesses and those who receive decent remittances from their family abroad.

Unhappiness with this supermarket prevails throughout the neighborhood, among ordinary Cubans.

There’s a myth about Miramar, that anyone living here has a considerable income, or that they belong to the upper middle class. There are lots of beautiful houses here, but there are also “solares” (crumbling buildings that are divided into small apartments), tiny rooms, the vast majority of people don’t have money, they live off measly wages or by inventing.

That’s our reality, only a select few can fill their trolleys with decent food products. The rest are going to look at store shelves, as if it were an exhibition.

One thought on “Spanish Department Store Chain Reaches Havana

  • If i had not been to Cuba and seen for myself i would find it hard to believe that any government could allow it’s people to continue to mainly struggle after being in power for some sixty years, what they have done to the Cuban people and continue to do is a disgrace against humanity.

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