The Decay of a Havana Shopping Center

Irina Pino

The preserves section of the supermarket at La Puntilla.

HAVANA TIMES — Everyday, we find out about the irregularities that state-run establishments make on the TV news. The media for the masses tells us to some extent what’s going on, but it’s us Cubans who have to pay the consequences.

At the La Puntilla shopping center, in Miramar, employees constantly come and go and the center was closed for a month recently, inconveniencing all of the neighbors who used to go there to shop. Nobody told us why, it was kept a complete secret. When somebody asked what was going on, they told us that they were carrying out an audit, but this audit was going on for far too long…

Some employees began to make comments on what was going on: people were leaving one after the other, many employees left before they were found with their hands in the till, claiming that they wanted to be transferred… In the department where they sold lamps and decorations, both sales ladies vanished into thin air (they were fired).

Now, you can see a lot of new faces there, especially in the supermarket, they say good morning, but it doesn’t sound natural, they’re like robots. They should start thinking about replacing all of the staff in the cafeteria, as customer service is terrible, they give you cold pizzas and they look at you like you don’t exist.

Managers walk up and down and it’s always someone different. Sometimes, goods pile up and they don’t put them out on sale. I’ve also seen products that are about to reach their expiration date and only the tiniest discount has been applied. It’s a real lack of respect for the customer, they only take off a few cents so you buy something that is potentially dangerous to your health.

Sometimes they appear to have run out of goods and the shelves remain desolate, which looks bad in the eyes of the center’s customers, affecting what the shopping center has to offer as well as its image.

An employee told me that she’s dying to get out of there because this shopping center is damned and a lot of people have “exploded” (usually for stealing), even though she’s never had to work with the public face-to-face.  Employees enjoy certain benefits. For example, this woman has been able to buy things, such as shoes, for a ridiculous price, while we, the people, buy the same goods at otherworldly prices.

The clothes and shoes they sell are normally horrendous, as well as costing too much, which doesn’t correspond to the quality of the garment or our minimum wage: a simple T shirt made in China can cost you almost 10 CUC (11.50 USD). Meanwhile, in the boutique, expensive old junk accumulates which nobody buys. You have to ask yourself, who wants to buy clothes when they aren’t even modern? They don’t even discount them; you see the same outfits on display for ages. I remember when a relative of mine who lives in the US came and was shocked to see the price of towels, as the cheapest here cost 6 CUC and they’re not even plush towels. “These towels cost 99 cents over there,” she told me.

It would be a good idea to negotiate with independent designers to sell their goods in the stores, they might be more successful and really take it off the ground.

Another subject is the club that used to be open on the top floor. They had to shut it down because it was a true disgrace, prostitutes and pimps used to leave that dump and scandalize the neighborhood between 3 and 4 am. You could hear them shouting, cursing, fighting, car races… in short, it was a real racket that used to wake up the entire neighborhood.

Luckily for all of us, measures were taken and we can sleep peacefully now. I just hope this peace endures, for centuries and centuries…


Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

6 thoughts on “The Decay of a Havana Shopping Center

  • Don’t worry yourself so much Lynch Noel, the irish will soon be separated from the British by Brexit.
    Incidentally are you by chance a relative of the late Dr. Ernesto de Serna Lynch?
    Remember, he advised that “to think as an individual is criminal.”
    I think that bjmack was referring to the mainland of North America which unlike Ireland and Britain is a continent, not an island. One of the notable characteristics of the irish is to take umbrage whenever possible against the British. For example, although bjmack wrote of Cuba, you had to drag in the old old weary stuff about the irish and the British. It’s a dead cat!

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