New Bakeries in Cuba

By Nike

HAVANA TIMES – Privately-owned bakeries have opened across Havana, for some time now. Many families in my town have set up a counter and a shelf in their garage or doorway to their house and have set up their own bakery.

Ingredients such as flour and yeast are almost always imported by a family member from a nearby country, while others buy them directly from a foreign supplier. There are people who dedicate themselves to just making the bread, and then you have the people who distribute it. In my town, they use horse-drawn carts, mopeds and all kinds of cars running on diesel or petrol.

This doesn’t mean to say that the bread problem has been fixed, but private bakers do the impossible to make bread every day and I admire them for this and am very grateful.

Ordinary Cubans choose the cheapest bags of bread that are a plastic bag with 8-10 soft bread rolls inside. The size of these rolls has been shrinking as demand has grown. These bags used to originally cost 25 pesos back in 2019, but now they cost around 70 pesos.

These new bakeries are a lot more efficient that state-owned bakeries. In addition to better quality of bread, there’s a better selection and the sales assistant is always friendly, plus you don’t have to wait in line, I think that’s what I like the most about them.

In the past couple of days, in the early morning at the bakery I normally buy from, there are three or four people waiting for the bread that the majority of us buy- the bags of 8-10 bread rolls. You don’t have to wait very long, just a couple of minutes and then the bread comes out of the oven and every one buys it. They also sell baguettes, loaves of bread and sometimes sweet bread rolls, which you can come and buy whenever you want.

I’m explaining all of this so I can tell you what happened to me one morning. We were a group of people waiting for the soft bread rolls. Suddenly, a foreigner – European looking – comes out of nowhere and asks me in perfect Spanish if we were all waiting for bread. There were only three of us and we nodded that we were. Then, the unexpected happened. The foreigner played the foreigner a little more and came up to me and asked:

“This means that there isn’t any bread.” I told him that we were waiting for a specific kind of bread and I pointed out the glass display where there were other kinds of bread. Then, the insulted foreigner told me that he didn’t understand how we Cubans could waste so much time, but he couldn’t waste it, “Plus, I’m in a real hurry.”

Then, the sales clerk intervened and kindly showed him the other bread on offer and explained that we Cubans don’t like to waste our time either, although he admitted that we do in fact lose a lot of time in Cuba. “But it isn’t our fault,” the baker gently said. Without even looking at him, the foreigner picked out his bread and replied, “In Cuba, you live with your back to Time and this is something you can see a mile away.”

There’s no doubt more could be said about this. A few seconds after the foreigner bought what he wanted, our bread rolls came hot out of the oven. A tender smell of bread that accompanied me all the way home.

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Nike

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.

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2 thoughts on “New Bakeries in Cuba

  • Really? Even the baking of bread is a struggle in Cuba? I wonder if Diaz-Canel eats fresh bread?

  • Nice news story. In Cuba, any time a private enterprise is successful this is a bright beacon, like a wake up call, to the communist government that market driven entrepreneurial endeavors clearly out weight totalitarian communist ideology. But how does a reader juxtaposition this success story with the HT article entitled: “More Blackouts, More Protests in Cuba”, August 3, 2022? I find the juxtaposition perplexing.

    Cuba today is experiencing more and more electricity blackouts on a daily basis and now, to boot, will be experiencing such blackouts on a nightly basis. Where does this bakery receive its electricity? Sure, the bakery can import its bread ingredients and not have to rely on communist cadres to supply bread making ingredients, but in the final analysis the dough needs to be baked in an oven. Bakery ovens run on electricity, do they not? Is there or isn’t there an energy crisis in Cuba? Or, is there an energy crisis in all Cuban provinces with the exception of Havana? After all, do not the communist Party elites live there along with rich tourists who may want to purchase baguettes from a private business when they so choose.

    If a group of Cubans have the “luxury” of baking bread using electricity from the local power grid, why are so many Cubans through out Cuba protesting by banging pots and pans on the streets crying out to their inept government to turn the lights back on? Do these unfortunate Cubans doing the protesting also have the “luxury” of not being arrested and then thrown in jail for simply requesting a basic human amenity – like electricity?

    Cubans from Havana to the north, to central Camaguey, to Baracoa in the south, all must endure daily and nightly power outages. Yet, as the article clearly states: “Privately-owned bakeries have opened across Havana, for some time now.” So, is it just Havana that has the luxury of openly flaunting the Cuban power grid so that those residents have the opportunity to buy freshly baked bread and baguettes while university students in Camaguey and elsewhere must endure rotting food in their residence fridges all because there is no electricity all day.

    Imagine, bread bags have escalated in price the article articulates: “These bags used to originally cost 25 pesos back in 2019, but now they cost around 70 pesos – whoa, a whopping 45 pesos increase for a Cuban living in Havana or a rich foreigner wanting to purchase freshly made bread or baguettes.

    How about those university students all over the island who have had all their food spoiled in residence refrigerators because there is no electricity from day break to sun set. How much have they had to pay to restock their food supply? The grief, the heartache, the anxiety, the additional financial costs, on top of the horrendous stress to study and produce good grades under trying circumstances (candle light!) is something the communist government needs to look in the mirror and say: “Mia culpa”. Shame.

    The Cuban totalitarian government’s response to university students pleading for a simple amenity is this unfortunate outcome: “ . . . eight young people remain in preventive detention and await trial at the Combinado Sur de Guantánamo prison, for the crime of public disorder and incitement to commit a crime.”

    Imagine, “public disorder” and then to be accused of committing a crime for a basic amenity as electricity which some Cubans can have and exploit for profit (good for those bread entrepreneurs) while others, obviously less fortunate, must serve time in jail asking for the same thing. The juxtaposition boggles the mind?

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