Jorge Milanes Despaigne

HAVANA TIMES — “Avocado!” That was what they used to call the young people some years back when they entered the military. Obviously this was due to the color of their uniforms. But I’m not going to talk about recruits.

This morning while passing through the farmer’s market, the sign showed the list of products and prices – with avocados selling for $2.50 a pound. This was a little strange because usually these are sold by the unit, with the price depending on the size of the individual avocado and going for between five and fifteen pesos (25 to 75 cents USD.

I stood at the counter to observe and figure out what I was looking at, though I still wasn’t clear if this way was cheaper or more expensive.

I decided to ask the clerk to put a small avocado on the scale for me (one of those that had previously cost five pesos) to compare the new pricing by the pound with the old way of charging by the individual avocado.

“I’m not the one who sets the prices. This is a state-owned market!” snapped the vendor, realizing what I was doing. “People are always bringing up the same thing. Here the prices are determined by the government, and all of you can either take them or leave them,” he continued angrily.

I walked over to other counters there in the same market, where I could see that all the other clerks were displaying the same attitude.

I ran into my neighbor glued to one of the stands, with one of the fruits in her hand. She was thumbing it and checking to see if it was ripe enough to eat.

“Why do you buy avocados here?” I asked, still somewhat taken aback by what I had just seen. “Around the corner they have bigger and ripper ones that only cost five pesos. Don’t you realize they’re robbing you?”

“Sure I do dear, but this isn’t the only place. You get ripped off everywhere.”