Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — In the last six months, the tires of the motorcycle that my mother uses have had to be replaced three times. The most recent one didn’t last thirty days. It fell apart, worn out with huge gaping holes.

A tire for a motorcycle costs about 30 CUCs (35 usd) – a tremendously high amount here, not nearly what my mother makes in a month. So if you want to be able to escape the nightmare of urban transportation, you have to tighten your belt that much more.

Yesterday, before she discovered the latest hole in one of the bike’s tires, she left the house with the aim of buying herself a pair of sandals. When she got home, with tears in her eyes, she told me: “Osme, the hell with my sandals. Now I’m going to have to scrape together more money for yet another tire.”

I don’t have to say what feelings of powerlessness and empathy I had for her. I wonder: Is what’s happening something normal?

Yes and no.

From a general point of view yes, because the same thing happens to other people we know.

This means that we’re importing poor quality tires. My stepfather says that the better ones are Russian and Czech, but those are only sold by independent motorcycle repair shops, because the ones they sell at the state-run stores are made in China or Thailand.

I don’t know what justifies these bad purchases abroad. Though they may be profitable for the government, for the public they mean nothing but more hardship.

Another and contributing problem is the bad condition of our streets. In the Cojimar community, almost none of them are decent. Each of the four streets surrounding my mother’s house has cracks out of which shoots of grass have already started to grow.

I was saying that this is normal, but yet it’s not. It ceases to be logical, because logic would dictate that a normal tire should hold up for at least six months.

On top of that, in the five years since my mother has been riding her government-provided motorcycle, the agency in charge of this has only given her one tire.

We know that the budget in distinct areas of socio-economic life in Cuba has been cut back due to the world economic crisis, and we also know — from experiencing it daily — the impact of the US embargo afflicting our country.

The Cuban government makes a lot of effort when it comes to trade, and its seeking the lowest possible prices could play into why its purchases aren’t the best. In that case however, the prices in retail markets should be reflected in lower prices for the consumer.

They can’t seek a big profit on purchases relying on the fact that consumers have no other alternatives. Without competition, the government bears all the responsibility in this regard.

I have to stress, nothing justifies a tire lasting only a month, especially when one costs two month our wages.


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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