Our Special Needs in Today’s Havana

Jorge Milanes

Small merchant using the public bus for transporting his merchandise.

HAVANA TIMES – A retail merchant conveniently stands a few meters away from the bus’ official stop, with sacks full of merchandise and gestures to the bus driver with a note in hand. The bus driver takes a good look and depending on how much the person is trying to flag him down with, either stops or carries on.

The economic crisis that is on the horizon, as well as the limits and consequences of the so-called Special Period in the ‘90s, means that today, many people in Cuba don’t want to be taken by surprise and are therefore resorting to different strategies to try and resolve their financial problems.

Recently, the space on buses designated for baby prams or people with special needs has been frequently used by retail merchants to transport sacks of merchandise in the morning.

When this is the case, the bus driver stops the bus and the individual quickly gets the bags of merchandise into the abovementioned space, with the help of another passenger. “Go on driver…” he shouts and immediately walks past passengers, the 20 peso note in his hand on show for all to see.

This hasn’t become a widespread practise, but there are already Cubans who are trying to solve the transport problem in this way which, although illegal because it implies using a space for people with special needs, is much cheaper than renting out a car or truck.

“This is also a need, by the looks of it, soon there won’t be anything to load, nor transport period,” a passenger says quietly about the retail merchant, while the rest of the passengers seem to be a bit more lost in thought.

I’m struck by how the threat of a new Special Period crisis has started off by affecting the most vulnerable first, people with “special needs”. On the other hand, retail merchants, who might not be so disadvantaged as them, feel that they need to take care of their own needs, because if they don’t, who will?

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.

2 thoughts on “Our Special Needs in Today’s Havana

  • Why the Cuban People don’t star colecthing arm to decent again the regime we the Cuban we are Very smart but the new generation have bent getting hues to live under the regime and because they get clothes from fam.and another necesites from them they don’t care what happent in the Country SHAME ON THEM.
    We need to do somthing is to Long to keep living under castro regien look Venezuela they don”t have arm but they go to the st.to fight for FREEDOM,what worm whit the Cuban People Learn from Venezuela do somthing be FREE live like human.
    Remember Marti,Maceo who they fithg from freedom.

  • The start of another “Special period” is the cumulative effect of dogmatic adherence to the 19th Century philosophy of Karl Marx as interpreted by Josef Stalin and adopted by Raul Castro Ruz even prior to his visit to the Soviet Union in April 1953. Despite the obvious benefits that the adoption of capitalism has brought to both China and Vietnam, the Castro regime has buried its head in the sands of a distorted history by banning capitalism in its “new” constitution and by so doing has exposed its singularly unattractive rear end which is now being kicked – very hard.
    The people of Cuba have already had to start tightening their belts again and sadly that is likely to continue, for Raul is still dictator and Diaz-Canel as his puppet will implement Raul’s policies. Those are to retain power and control without consideration of the effects upon the populace. Raul Castro Ruz has never ceased being ruthless from his time in the Sierra Maestra when he and Guevara personally executed supporters who dared to question Castro dictate, through his subsequent history as Head of the Military when thousands were executed, (Note that he still has precedence over Diaz-Canel with the military).
    My prime concern is for my wife and family along with our community and all the poor subjected people of Cuba. If only that concern was shared by the communist regime – but it obviously isn’t.
    The final sentence of ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’ reads:
    “Liberty and that poignant cry for freedom beckon and humanity demands.”
    Humanity however has no role within communism.

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