Maria Matienzo Puerto

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 28 — At the Havana Book Fair I met a Mexican woman who told me about some Mexican feminists who were debating on Facebook about the best way for one to wash one’s “toto” (female genitalia).

I laughed – I couldn’t do otherwise. It’s that I had never discussed that with anyone and it seemed absurd (I think it still does) that people would get into a debate about something so every day, something so inconsequential.

So me, someone who’s criticizing them, now I want to weigh into a related topic: toilet paper.

I want to turn toilet paper into a social symbol in the reclamation of the rights to intimacy and hygiene. That would be eschatological, wouldn’t it?

A long time ago, years perhaps, toilet paper in Cuba ceased being a necessity and become a luxury for Cuban women.

Someone took note of this and began producing a type called “Calidad Popular” (People’s Quality); that was the slogan printed on the wrapper. This consisted of a light brown paper that looked dirty, but which we always thought was recycled or something. Plus, since it was sold in local currency, nobody had a problem with it.

Well, there wasn’t a problem until one day even the “People’s Quality” toilet paper started being sold in hard currency.

The prices began to rise from .90 CUC to 1.50 CUC (from about $1 USD to $1.65 USD) for a pack of four rolls. Even still, though the price of toilet paper hit 10 percent of a person’s average monthly wage, women continued to buy it. Now we were edging toward the height of a paroxysm.

Then it happened – the price tripled. There was no conciliation or any other options. Now I had to spend 30 percent of my monthly salary on toilet paper if I wanted to maintain my hygiene.

Does that seem superfluous, superficial…frivolous?

Really?

Well, so what? Maybe it is, but that’s the way things work around here. That’s how things function. There just aren’t that many options for wiping off pee.


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.

3 thoughts on “Weighing in on Toilet Paper in Cuba

  • Time to reprint Erasmo’s “recipe” for bleaching old issues of GRANMA so that the newsprint won’t come off and blacken your culo! Also, sounds like a perfect opportunity for a new collective to manufacture sanitary paper at a reasonable price.

  • Since the government controls the production of both…why in Cuba is rum cheap and toilet paper expensive?

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