Jorge Milanés Despaigne


HAVANA TIMES — “The trucks bring 600 concrete blocks a time,” Belkis says to me with a rude tone of voice.

“That’s fine,” I reply. “But there’s something I don’t quite understand: the time these materials are received and how they are sold.”

The truck just arrived. I see the loaders passing other blocks without first taking them into the warehouse for inventory. The blocks are going straight from the truck to a trailer, “how do you explain that” I asked out loud?

“They’re for State subsidized construction work, they were already reserved,” she replies.

“And why does the same truck sell these same blocks at [the higher price] of 10 pesos the unit outside?” I ask.

“Those blocks are produced privately,” she answers.

“So, the blocks produced by private contractors are reddish and come in a different truck,” I retorted and walked out of the office feeling very angry. “Go where you please,” I heard her say in the distance.

In order to take the materials out of the warehouse, those who have received a State subsidy have to have a check issued by the bank. I wanted to see how that person who had received the subsidy took out the blocks Belkis had supposedly sold her.

“Where’s the driver of the truck?” I asked at the entrance.

“It’s me,” the person there said. “Relax, bro, I’ll bring you your blocks this afternoon.”

The torrential rain that day, however, made it impossible for the driver to return to the warehouse. Though the bank is closed on Saturday, the blocks that had come in the day before were all sold. Loaders would walk in and out of the trailer carrying blocks, sold at who knows how much (in this case, they were selling them inside the warehouse, not out on the street).

There, 300 blocks were set aside for the lady who had allegedly reserved them all, 600 blocks in total (according to the warehouse woman).I continued to wait for the truck to arrive. At 5 pm, I headed home without any blocks.

At 8 am the next day, Belkis said to me: “I’ve seen you here since Thursday. The concrete block company doesn’t open on Sundays. You can go, I’ll make sure to set aside your blocks.”

There are far too many problems and speaking to the manager is impossible: she’s either at a meeting, away, having lunch or something else. You can’t believe what people there tell you. I was there until ten in the morning and the blocks never arrived. You can also buy these at a different warehouse, but the problem is that you’re assigned a certain amount of money and the price of transporting the materials home varies.

At 7 am on Monday, Belkis saw me sitting there, came over and said to me: “Give me your papers. I’m not going to be here and I don’t want any problems with your blocks when the truck comes in.” I gave her the documents but (obviously) stayed put.

This is by no means an isolated incident. The issue has been addressed in the TV program Cuba dice (“Cuba Says”), the radio broadcast Haciendo Radio (“On the Radio”) and other spaces, but nothing changes. Such incidents, at least here, are something we see every day.

The truck arrived at 11:45 am. Everyone there cheered for me: I was finally able to buy the diabolical concrete blocks. And that was just the blocks! I can only imagine what lies ahead to obtain the other building materials.

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

7 thoughts on “Chasing After Concrete Blocks in Cuba

  • So what?

  • But you are not even from Cuba!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *