Mopping Up in Cuba

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

The "frazada" used for mopping in Cuba. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 21— In Cuba it’s customary to mop the floors of houses using a frazada (a medium thick, towel-sized cloth). This is one of the most common and never-ending duties in Cuban homes, thanks to the dust that inevitably blows in.

I’ve seen loose-stringed mops in only a few places here in Cuba (in the houses of foreign families living here and in the offices of joint-ventures companies, meaning those that receive some percentage of their capital from foreign investors).

Fazadas — made out of a fabric that absorbs water well and is easy to wring out — measures about three feet long foot and foot and a half wide.

During the hard-hitting Special Period crisis of the 1990s, these floor clothes became very scarce, and those that were available were too expensive.

Instead, some people ventured to use old t-shirts on the end of their mop handle, which is a tool that enables one to clean the house with a frazada without having to get on their knees, like in the old Cinderella fairytales.

It turns out that yesterday my neighbor came over to my house worried. There is a rumor in the street that has her upset. “The frazadas are going to disappear again,” she said. “My sister’s father-in-law found one in a store,” she continued, “but it didn’t cost the usual 20 pesos – but 35 pesos now!”

The news had me worried me too. Since if before I had to think twice about buying a new floor cloth, now it seems I’m going to have to go back to using my undershirts. Just think, now frazadas are going to be more expensive than a pack of ground turkey.