Looking for a Newsstand…and Going Insane in the Process

Warhol P

Havana Newstand.

HAVANA TIMES — I used to buy magazines and newspapers regularly. I speak in the past tense because, since a few months ago, it is no longer so easy for me to buy the periodicals I used to read to keep abreast of developments in culture and become informed about events of significance.

It so happens, see, that the newspaper and magazine stand that used to be located near the park at the intersection of 126 and 51, in the neighborhood of Marianao, disappeared overnight.

I didn’t write about this immediately because I thought that, perhaps, they would replace it with a more modern stand, manufactured in Venezuela or China (though the previous one didn’t appear to be in poor condition).

In front of the spot formerly occupied by the stand, there is a bus stop where several people who re-sell magazines and periodicals show up every day. The stop also welcomes people who buy and sell hard currency illegally. This, however, is not the subject of my article. No one is worried about this situation. The police know about it and don’t care, and I care less.

What bothers me is being unable to buy the magazines I used to read as easily as before. Before, I paid twenty cents for a newspaper. Now, to add insult to injury, I have to pay a peso for each of the major ones (Granma, Juventud Rebelde, Tribuna) and three pesos for Orbe. I’ve paid as much as five pesos for this last one.

The months passed and nothing was done about this, so I decided to find another newspaper stand.

But the disappeared stand was the only one in the municipality of Marianao. There’d been one in front of the Finlay polyclinic located at the intersection of 51 and 124 streets, but that one had also been removed earlier.

I remembered that, once, while walking around La Lisa, I’d seen a stand where they sold newspapers. I had to walk a fair distance, but it was still closer than the one in front of the military hospital.

I walked down to La Lisa and…what did I discover? The place where the stand had been was an empty stretch of concrete.

It was then that I started thinking something was wrong. I even got to thinking that it was something fate had placed in my way, that it could only be a kind of punishment.

If I go out to buy eggs, there are either no eggs or, of the ten I manage to buy, four prove to be rotten.

If I go out to catch a bus, I wait for hours under the hot sun and, when I decide to walk, the bus drives past me (and I continue walking, for I am not going to wait at another stop).

If I manage to catch a bus, I get a panic attack. There’s so many people packed together, breathing close to me, shoving me every two seconds, I feel I’m going to have a fit, so I get off and walk.

If I go into a store, I get lousy service. I don’t know why, but I sometimes feel like the invisible man: I call the clerk and she pretends not to see or hear me. Finally, I buy the product I need and, when I get home, I discover it’s defective. I should go back to the store, but I refuse, I absolutely refuse to go back to the store and deal with the impolite clerk again, so I keep the defective product and make do with what I’ve got.

I can think of countless such situations, which I can’t help but think must be a kind of bad karma.

Ultimately, I don’t know why the blessed newsstands have disappeared. We should ask a magician or fortune teller.

I have some theories. There isn’t much paper and not many people read magazines – they have to spend their money on garlic, onions, plastic thongs, plastic earrings, things made of plastic.

Another plausible theory is that they want to help out people who re-sell magazines. They are usually elderly people who have measly pensions, eat poorly and dress in rags.

As for culture and the right to information, well, they can go f- themselves. I could say a lot more about this, but it’d be full of objectionable adjectives.

Instead, I choose to end this post quoting the host of a Cuban show titled Pasaje a lo desconocido (“Trip to the Unknown”): “draw your own conclusions.”

As for me, I’ll continue to look for another newsstand.

2 thoughts on “Looking for a Newsstand…and Going Insane in the Process

  • In 2001 while visiting Havana I met a medical doctor who was in the same specialty as me. I visited him at the hospital for a day and watched several procedures being performed. I was struck by how the equipment and supplies were very limited. In the US all of it was disposable, in Havana everything was re-used. When I asked the doctors what they needed the most, the answer was. “Information.”

  • When my wife recently traveled to Guantanamo from the US for New Years, she treated her mom and her sister to a day at the hairdresser while she was there. She packed all the high-end products the hairdresser would use AND by request of the hairdresser also brought recent copies of Cosmopolitan, Vogue and other women’s magazines that are standard fare in hair salons around the world. I bitched a little about this since the extra weight charges paid to the airline to bring the magazines to Cuba exceeded the original costs of the magazines! Of course, I lost that battle. Anyway, the hairdresser was so happy for the magazines that she traded her 6 hours of labor for my mother and sister-in-law just for the magazines.

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