How a Simple Process in Cuba Becomes an Ordeal

by Nike

HAVANA TIMES – Cubans are so used to being mistreated that they justify everything. I have been trying to put my youngest sister on the ration book for more than a month. For those who don’t know, this booklet has existed since the 60s of the last century in order to ration food and with the promise that it would only last for a while.

There was also another booklet to buy in clothing stores, it had coupons and people dubbed it María la O, which is a Cuban zarzuela. They called it that way because for the same coupon you could buy bras or stockings, for example, or shampoo or deodorant, underpants or stockings, shoes or flip-flops…etc. These booklets were no longer used in the 90s, they only remained to buy school uniforms.

In Europe, after the Second World War, rationing was introduced, a kind of voucher system with which food was purchased. This experience was quickly overcome, in my country it has been maintained for more than 60 years. This duration in time explains why this theme is reiterated among those of us who try to explain our country through writing.

Each family nucleus in Cuba is assigned one of these ration books. It is headed by a nucleus chief. I, who have never been the head of anything, nor do I like to be, have had to be the head of my family nucleus. Then there are the other family members, for example, as soon as the children are born, the first thing is to register them in the address register and then you go to the OFICODA, which is the name of the offices that are in charge of all their procedures. In all the municipalities of the country there is one of these offices.

With that explained, I‘ll tell how I managed to put my sister on the ration book.

I left very early for those offices, after queuing up, a woman sitting behind a desk receives me. Since I stand in front of her, she receives me with a frown and gets defensive without me even telling her anything. When I tell her what I want to do, she starts to raise her voice to explain to me. I speak to her in a low and slow voice, I notice that she begins to lower her tone and explain to me, calmer, she tells me at the end: return next week with the old booklet.

On Tuesday of the following week, I showed up very early because they serve the public only until noon. I said good morning, and the same woman received me. I explained the same thing from the previous week that I want to put my sister on my ration book, immediately a lady approaches as if she were a Pitbull and starts shouting rudely and I thought: she likes the title of boss. She even scolded the woman from the bureau saying: but you didn’t even take her data from her?

I tried to remain even-tempered and speak to her softly, but this lady was not into psychology, she was very upset with the life she leads and takes it with the clients as if we were to blame for her problems. In the end, she told me that she couldn’t do anything because my sister had to show up with her identity card, a 5-peso stamp, and the old ration book. As you can see, such a simple procedure that is mandatory and established for so many years can become a two-week problem.

We returned the next day and when we entered two of the ladies come out like wild beasts and said: today we are closed to the public. We explained to her that yesterday she herself told me to come in first thing today. I don’t remember saying that said the lady with the air of a boss. Today is Wednesday and the public is not served, come tomorrow.

I got worked up and I was the one who yelled and asked them why they are so closed like that, even an employee that I had not seen came to the desk, shouting with cheap tack to impress us, my sister and I looked at each other and decided to exit leaving the screaming behind.

I don’t want to make the story too boring and repetitive, believe it or not, it was like that. On Friday we arrived very early at the office with everything they had asked us for, as soon as they saw us they went on alert. I tried to be calm and without getting upset, because the day before I had gotten mad.

I didn’t understand why they were so determined not to want to help me? It’s their job, but in this country nobody or almost nobody wants to do their job well. Interest in everything has been lost. Which makes me think that there are people bent on making the lives of others more difficult.

Read more from Nike here on Havana Times


I was born in Havana, Cuba. All my life I have had the sea as a landscape. I like being close to it, feeling its breeze, its smell, as well as swimming and enjoying the wonders it gives us. Thanks to the manual skill that I inherited from my parents, I have been able to live off crafts. I work primarily papier-mâché, making puppets for children. I write for Havana Times for the possibility of sharing with the world the life of my country and my people.

2 thoughts on “How a Simple Process in Cuba Becomes an Ordeal

  • March 23, 2023 at 2:34 pm

    Sad but enlightening

  • March 23, 2023 at 12:48 am

    Well I guess people are so used to doing nothing and having to do it their way all the time.It gets nowhere don’t advance in education or being educated.Thats the problem.Nothing new just stays the same.It will die like it too .Boring.Need motivation.

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