Finita, the Self-Employed Worker

Jorge Milanes Despaigne 

Woman selling sweets on the Havana streets. Photo: Caridad

A month ago Finita got her “self-employed worker” license that permits her to sell light refreshments in the street.  She didn’t want to sell other food because at her age she doesn’t have the physical strength to carry so much on her back.

Every day, before the crack of dawn, this tall and fairly thin woman gets up to hit the streets to sell the coffee she has prepared.  From one shoulder hangs her bag with her thermos and cups inside for serving her brew.

As she walks she announces what she’s selling.

“Finita, do you have some coffee?” I asked when she passed by.

“Yes, my love,” she responded.

She sat the bag on a park bench, opened the bag and took out a cup to serve me her delicious hot drink for one peso (about $.04 USD) in domestic currency.

She commented that over the past few days she had made few sales because the coffee they now sell at the store has more ground peas mixed in, and it seems that many people don’t like it.  Some people will buy a cup only because they feel bad for her, she explained, but it’s not as good as what she was selling at the beginning.

As I was drinking my coffee, I recommended that she also sell juice since the weather was so hot.

She looked at me with the intention of responding, but nothing came out.

Her thin body then leaned toward me to get the cup I had used.  I helped her put the bag back over her shoulder, for which she thanked me, and she continued on her way.

I imagined what she was probably thinking – that my suggestion would require a heavy plastic bag full of juice bottles that her body couldn’t stand lugging around daily.

That evening, while I was at home watching the telenovela, my mother came over to me with a glass of juice and said:  “Try it.  Tell me if you like it, because when the school year begins, my friend Finita and I are going to start selling juice during the children’s recess.”