Is This About You? Is It About Me?

Maria Matienzo Puerto

HAVANA TIMES, April 13 — There are fake coins circulating in the streets of Havana. That’s not some metaphor, you understand. A while ago someone pointed it out to me.

Coins valued at 1 CUC (about $1 USD) should now be checked whenever one receives change. But how do you know what’s real or not?

The thing is that you have to look and see if the shield on one side and the face on the other aren’t aligned in the same direction, meaning the ones that are opposed are legitimate coins.

The funny thing is that you’ll get the same good or bad ones no matter if it’s from of government money exchange center (Cadeca), a store or a private seller knocking on your door to sell you beans.

This happened to me I when I went to a Cadeca the other day. When I looked at the coins they had given me, I examined each one and found that one of them was counterfeit.  The cashier, in an aggressive tone, then asked me if something was wrong. Of course unwilling to take this sitting on my hands, I demanded my right to lawful money.

She suddenly got offended, and the security guard pulled me away as if I were some public menace or a bank robber.

After she and the guard heard my clear and strong explanation, she exchanged my 1 CUC coin. I’m sure this was because no one wants such a scandal to go beyond the four acrylic walls of little cubicles like those.

Nonetheless, I left bewildered and confused.

First: Who’s putting these fake coins in circulation? – Cashiers? Clerks? Salespeople? Are things so out of control here that it doesn’t matter if someone pays with counterfeit currency? How is it that some people demand legitimate money as payment and others don’t?

Second: Are the guards there to intimidate customers? How much power do these people have to mistreat or intervene in matters that don’t concern them directly, like money exchange?

Third: Aren’t we all citizens of the same country? How is that what’s an injustice for me isn’t going to be the same for you?

Now what’s coming to my mind is a dirty word. But no – let me stop. In cases like this, what we can’t do is lose our patience.

When I left the Cadeca exchange booth I felt that I was the person being controversial, out of sync, and that nobody cared what was happening.

I know that sometimes I’ve talked about how people need to trace out their strategies for survival in this chaotic and brainless society, but how far do we have to go?

How indifferent can one be to what’s happening around us?

I know these are too many questions, but how deep have inefficiency, bureaucracy, incompetence, resignation and alienation permeated Cuban society?


Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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