Need Changes people

Tomato paste made by a cooperative in the Havana municipality of Boyeros.

By Nike

HAVANA TIMES – I want to tell you how the day-to-day is being lived in Cuba at this moment. Those who know my country know the difficulty that most Cubans have always gone through to cover our basic needs and that more than living, we have become accustomed to subsisting.

With the current crisis situation we are in, shortages abound of all kinds of products, whether for personal hygiene or food, as we try to get what we need most urgently or what we can. This has generated a change in habits and tastes.

For example, today, even the toothpaste sold at the ration stores, that nobody likes, preferring imported ones, is not available anywhere and has become one of the most coveted and sought-after products. Not to mention imported toothpaste.

I mention toothpaste just to give you an idea.

Another “missing” item at stores is the tomato puree. Until recently I didn’t like the one they sell in the agro-markets and now it seems very good to me. I thank the people, farmers, who produce it and who even add their own label. They are doing something so necessary, seasoned with onion and garlic, which makes it healthier and fresher. Thanks to them the people can obtain a national product, which right now does not exist in state stores.

In this way the ordinary Cuban can eat some spaghetti with natural tomato puree and season their food with sautéed ingredients. These farmers also prepare vinegar, dry wine, canned chili, dehydrated garlic etc. I am sure that if they had better conditions and resources, the presentation of their products and packaging would be better.

Homemade products lacking proper packaging.

Another thing new for us is to eat without rice, which for the Cuban is like a sacrilege to which we have had to get used to these days, having to substitute it with corn flour, spaghetti, tubers and plantains, which I think are actually better foods, but more expensive . For example, chopo a tuber is at 6 pesos a pound, the sweet potato at 4 pesos a pound, plantains at 3 pesos each, etc.

Meat products have become a nightmare. To eat chicken or hash, you have to get in a line for up to three days to get a ticket so you might have the right to buy when the truck arrives. As to eggs, I can only tell you, that the hens haven’t recovered from the stress of the last hurricane.

That’s all I wanted to tell you.


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.

3 thoughts on “Need Changes people

  • The chances Eltur of the Cuban people being able to “rise up” are zero.

    Firstly, they are in the inexorable grip of a well organized totalitarian system – MININT and the CDR providing 24 hour oversight throughout the island, led by the KGB trained son of Raul Castro.

    Secondly they have no access to armaments – Cuba being an island with military outposts on its coastline (for example there is one on the outskirts of Varadero) to prevent any form of smuggling, plus helicopter oversight. (To be seen for example west of Havana).

    Thirdly, although there are so many who wish for freedom, there is a deep wish to avoid further bloodshed staining their history.

    Regarding Jose Marti, the Castro regime has cleverly made him into a revolutionary hero – relating his purpose of liberating his fellow Cubans as if it was supportive of communism. Cubans almost worship the propagated legends related to Marti and the regime has an endless supply of those white busts of him, to be placed at schools, public buildings, parks, gardens, etc. Whereas in reality Marti was virulently opposed to totalitarian rule, he has been transformed as if a supporter.

    It remains my view, that the communist system will as in the USSR, eventually rot from within as the public grow ever more critical and the regime feels compelled to make some changes. For communism, that is a real problem as change is a death threat. To quote Marti:

    “I have profound admiration for those many basic liberties and opportunities open to the vast majority of American citizens.”

    The regime in its distortion of the history of Marti, fails to explain that although his wife Carmen and son Jose Francisco, returned to Cuba and he never saw them again, he preferred life in the US – where he had another non-legitimate child, Maria Mantilla, mother of Cesar Romero, who became a Hollywood film star.

    Marti’s song ‘Guantanamera’ is virtually Cuba’s alternative national anthem.

    Without naming any of them, I can say with certainty that there are many professional, arts and intellectuals in Cuba who seek to see the end of the regime and who are in contact with each other. Do not underestimate the potential of that rot which I mentioned.

  • Sandra,

    Very considerate and noble of you to try and help your Cuban friends in Cuba. Sending packages to Cuba, as you have experienced, is an exercise in futility and frustration because the package will never arrive and mysteriously disappears. You are not dealing with a progressive postal service like here in Canada whereby a package not delivered on time is traced and if undelivered you, the sender, are compensated.

    Rather than sending packages, send money. Go to your local Canadian bank branch and enquire about sending money to Cuba. It will cost but at least you are guaranteed the money will be delivered directly to your Cuban friend.

    You must supply the Canadian bank with personal information about the recipient receiver like name, address, street, municipality, province and I.D. number.

    Your Cuban friend will also do the same and go to their bank and enquire about how this process can be accomplished. By maintaining contact with your Cuban friend and exchanging information, you can provide much needed monetary assistance.

    As you know the island is short of many basic food supplies and other essentials however with money in hand they can now enter tourist shops if they live nearby and purchase whatever they need because those tourist shops are always well stocked but cost money which most Cubans do not have.

    I hope this works for you and your Cuban friend(s).

  • Myself and other Canadians who have been to Cuba and have Cuban friends would like to help, but don’t know how. I sent a package in January to Holguin which never arrived. We take “gifts”, like everyone who visits Cuba, but now we can not go. If someone knows a way to make life easier for Cubans, that is safe and legal, for them, I would like to know.

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