A Slap in the Face

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 3 — The crackers we bought to “liven up” the end of the year ended up hurting my tongue and gums. They’re so hard that they snap off and break if you bite them, and though they’re sold as “saltines” they have no flavor whatsoever.

This is a product for ordinary people that are put on sale to meet a need. They can be bought inexpensively and paid for in national currency, though they their roots in similarly sized much more expensive packages that can only be purchased using hard currency.

When these cheaper ones first hit the market, everyone got excited because they were similar to their more expensive “cousins,” which have always enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for good quality. But as always, the quality of the imitation brand for the general population took a dive to wind up in the pitiful state that we find them today.

But what happened to the quality of these crackers? Was it due to a lack of ingredients? Does the US trade blockade leave the country deprived of any cooking oil or yeast? Probably, but those aren’t the causes for these practically inedible crackers.

What happens is that the people who make them steal the ingredients, using these for their own benefit by selling them on the “black market” or taking advantage of them to prepare more profitable pastries that they can sell on the side. This is common knowledge. Everybody knows it – from the president on down to street sweepers. So what?

Another striking detail is the short time between the date when these crackers are manufactured and their date of expiration: Just two months! In my case, the ones I bought were produced six weeks earlier.

Nevertheless, I don’t expect to see any Cuban throwing away crackers for fear of damaging their health – or, to correct myself, I don’t expect to see people throwing away 25 pesos over a “minor detail” like that.

Sure, there are people here who — though they disguise themselves as ordinary — feel and live above all this. Are they the ones who don’t buy crackers like these?

Could it be that those other pricier crackers are for singers, leaders, and celebrities in general? Are they provided the better product so their gums and tongues don’t end up bleeding when they appear on TV?

The baker/merchandizers are selling us crackers using their hands, but they’re also are giving us a slap in the face without the use of hands – a moral slap.

Normally any physical contusion from such a blow would heal over time, but the damage they do goes straight to the soul, which is why it’s more enduring.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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