Havoc in Havana

In the Villa Panamericana of Havana

By Lorenzo Martin Martinez

HAVANA TIMES – I went to visit a friend today in the coastal town of Cojimar. We visit each other every now and then and try to fix the world as we drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Between sips of a bitter brew that we Cubans call palmiche, and at the bodega store they tell us that the coffee is mixed but never explain what it is mixed with exactly, we talked about the last few weeks when we hadn’t seen each other, our immediate plans and about the latest people we know to have left… yep, everyone is leaving. The most repeated news nowadays is the last friend to have left and you still haven’t found out.

After lunch, she asked me to go with her to the market outside the nearby Villa Panamericana to look for shoes because the pair she has won’t survive another two blocks, and she’s already stitched and glued them up a thousand times. It was a quite a short walk and the sun wasn’t scorching.

Outside the fair area.

With the idea of buying deodorant and one or two other things I might need – cheap things mind you, because prices are through the roof -, I reached the market and I hadn’t been there even 3 minutes before I witnessed an event that I had heard about but had never seen with my own two eyes. An event that is worthy of being on the most convoluted episode of The X-Files.

After checking out a couple of stalls selling shoes and looking at a few others in search of something she might need at home, we had just about decided which shoes to buy. The thing is, buying here isn’t a question of who has the best products or prices, prices are the same on every stall, as if they all reached a consensus, and the products they do sell are pretty much the same or very similar. Most of the goods are imported by the sellers themselves, from Panama, Haiti, and other neighboring markets, or by mules who make the trip to buy the merchandise and then sell them in bulk once they return to Cuba. By the way, the quality is subpar. You can also find Serrano coffee or a pack of Gouda cheese at this market, which are taken from MLC stores and resold here for the price of your kidney.

Inside the market.

Thinking about how high prices are and how empty my pockets were, I heard a shout that seemed to come from the throat of someone who was announcing an aerial bombing:

“Aguaaaaaaa!!!!” The raucous voice shouted, spreading terror over 100 km/hr.

Lost in thought, I looked up at the sky, I squinted at the few clouds that were calmly dragging across the beautiful blue sky, and I didn’t understand where rain could possibly come from. I looked around and I swear I didn’t see a drop of water fall anywhere. It was only the frenzy that ensued that gave away the fact that something unusual happening.

Teresita, who noticed I wasn’t catching on, took me by the arm and told me:

“The police or inspectors, mijo, or both, come on let’s go, this has gone to pot,” she said, resigned to spending another day pretty much barefoot.

I was quite confused until I came out of my haze. The thought of inspectors never even crossed my mind when I heard the cries. A scene which doesn’t scare only a seasoned Creole Cuban unfolded before me.

Everything happened so fast, so synchronized that I doubt Michael Jackson could have been any more exact in the best of his dance choreographies. They all began an incredible dance, where even customers took part and helped the sellers.

Kiosk doors, mostly metal, came crashing down with a bang like thunder, the closest thing there was to a storm here. Chairs and benches disappeared, flung into stores. Hangers and display cases placed outside retail points were put away quicker than they were put out. Huge bags were flung over the fence and with their owners got into their respective carriers that were parked on a nearby street.

Captivated by this cover-up operation, I didn’t notice what the people around me were doing. When I finally returned to Earth, I saw that pretty much nobody was left in the market, like some kind of paranormal activity. Buyers and shopkeepers had vanished as if by magic. The area that had been buzzing just a few minutes before, was now an empty square. Looking again, I only saw three or four people who were calmly looking for the exit.

Near the exit door, an old revolutionary propaganda poster, which had fallen and was damaged by the ravages of time, it summed up well what had happened. They won’t pass, the old poster preached.

Once we were outside, we saw the reason for this commotion: a police patrol car, a truck belonging to the special brigade full of inspectors and different plainclothes police officers. Police officers who stripped anyone who came out of the market naked with their eyes, including the dog with scabies that came with us as we left, as if he had understood what was going on. Police officers that didn’t ask us for ID by some kind of miracle, because their bitterness and frustration at not having caught anyone they could annoy, drenched their shirts in sweat. They were an obvious, dense, and unhealthy presence.

Another day I wake up happy, have a thousand reasons to have a good day and reality makes sure to sour it for me. Another day that I have to pay the sad price for living in an unusual country and society, where it’s the sellers’ job to embezzle, the police and inspectors’ job to harass and citizens’ job to keep quiet unless they want to be arrested and charged with treason.

We ended up having a coffee on the corner and Tere kept me company until the bus came,

which would take me back to my Old Havana in ruins. A better name has never been given to an urban settlement.

Read more from the diary of Lorenzo Martin Martines here.

3 thoughts on “<strong>Havoc in Havana</strong>

  • Cuban citizens you have the best system, we pay taxes, just like you but you have a great police state, with not freedom of Assembly, repression, and one political party. We have multiple political parties , free elections opportunities for those that wanted to work and succeeds. Free press and the right to protests. But we the Canadian like to go to your country and compares and I’m telling you keep that wonderful system and the opportunity for us to feel important in your country. God bless democracy and your freedom,

  • Sorry readers;
    I erred when I proofread the above post on the amount of money (plus Military Hardware) that the US has forwarded to date to the Ukraine. It is 54-BILLION DOLLARS, not Millions of dollars of US Taxpayers money.
    Perhaps you Cuban Readers don’t understand the taxation policies in Canada and the USA.

    Both countries Canada and the USA, pay Income Taxes on the money we earn as wages each year.
    We ALSO pay Realty Taxes on our property and houses EACH Year.
    This amounts to a considerable amount of money from each wage-earner and house or business owner which goes DIRECTLY to the government, supposedly to pay for the services we require.
    The taxes continue to rise in each year while the SERVICE QUALITY from our governments tends to DECREASE annually.

    See, you people in Cuba don’t have it so bad after all. At least you don’t have to shovel snow or purchase fuel to heat your house for 6 or 7 months a year – EVERY YEAR !

    Don From Northern Canada

  • Cuban Citizens do you think that in other countries that life is just a bed of roses?

    In the USA for instance, there are over 8-million people living under bridges and in tents, cars, and wherever it is conducive to staying alive. Wait ’till the real cold weather sets in. Deaths in the thousands will follow.

    Businesses are shutting down because of the costs of shipping goods (which is of course, because of the rising cost of fuel (gasoline or diesel fuels used for trucking goods to businesses).
    This rise in fuel costs is caused by the USA’s Government involvement in the Ukraine war (54-Million Dollars of US tax-payers money no less) and all the sanctions on Russia who DID supply Europe et al with fuel. The US warmongers and their allies destroyed the two German/Russian natural-gas pipelines, causing an enormous spike upwards in fuel costs all over the world.

    The same thing is happening in Canada where I live. Shipping costs have eliminated an ENORMOUS NUMBER of small businesses and ALL THE PEOPLE THAT THEY EMPLOYED therein.
    Add to that the maneuvers of Klaus Schwab’s, W.E.F., ‘Agenda 2030′, activities’, followed by our Cranially-deficient Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal cohorts’ AND our Ukrainian Neo-Nazi Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, whose Grandfather was a Nazi-collaborator and ran a newspaper throughout the second World War for the Nazis, in Poland.

    The effects and hegemonic behaviour of the US Government around the world, when they actually make up ONLY 4 1/2% of the worlds total population, is stunning to me.
    They need to be sanctioned out of existence by the rest of the world!

    If you think for one-minute that life would be a glowing experience by coming to the USA, give your little heads a shake.
    When the reality of the numbers of unemployed people that will be factual after this coming winter’s forthcoming fury, in both the USA and Canada, you will soon see the wisdom in my words.
    Don from Northern Canada

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