HAVANA TIMES — On December 28, 29 and 30, Cuban television announced that markets would be set up in all of Havana’s municipalities to sell food products (pork, beans and root and green vegetables) at affordable prices.
The news was well received by low-income people, who anxiously awaited the arrival of those days, and we’re ultimately treated to an unpleasant experience.
At 124th, an avenue in Marianao, they set up a single stand to sell a foul-smelling pork meat, and a kilometer-long line of people had formed. Anywhere you went you heard people complain, saying that the price difference was insignificant when compared to what private vendors charged. The crowds around trucks selling onions and cabbage were so large that the police had to intervene on more than one occasion. They even detained some people who were trying to buy products from these trucks. An ill-tempered woman said that the poor organization was deliberate, a way of inciting trouble and making things hard for people. This same woman stretched out her arm to show us a string of mid-sized onions that had cost her 5 Cuban pesos.
Other trucks parked in the area sold three larger strings of onions for 25 Cuban pesos. It was a better option, but buying anything from these trucks was almost impossible because of the huge crowd of people around them. The crowds became so unruly they had to suspend the sales – and not only because of the commotion, but also because the owners of the truck were from the province of Pinar del Rio and, before selling anything, they had to make a declaration that they had failed to make. They had simply arrived and started selling, until the competent authorities realized what the situation was and showed up at the place. They argued with the owners of the truck, who insisted they could sell their products without having to declare anything. Ultimately, they were forced to stop.
The same thing happened in the municipality of La Lisa, where nearly all of the products sold lacked quality and the pork looked spoiled. Everyone standing in line was complaining about the markets. In the end, low-income Cubans didn’t get much out of fairs.
That said, one sensed a bit more joy out on the streets this New Year’s. I saw many fire-works go off and stuffed dolls were burnt in more than one neighborhood to see the year off.
Many believe that the new relations with the United States will make everything change for us, that, by the end of this year, we may get to see Santa Claus cruising across Cuban skies, dropping real gifts for the people.