Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — The waiting room of the emergency ward at Havana’s Luis Dias Soto (or Naval) Hospital has only one bathroom for both genders. The women’s bathroom has been closed up for a while now – since February, at least – and everyone uses the men’s lavatory.

The sink in this bathroom doesn’t work. This, however, doesn’t stop a lady – presumably a cleaning woman – from setting up a small table next to the entrance to charge you a Cuban peso for the service.

To be fair, this woman makes an effort to be kind and keep her workplace clean. There is something to be said for the fact the bathroom is always relatively clean.

After one pays to use the bathroom once, one may continue to use it free of charge the rest of the day. Even though it’s a hospital, where patients often have very difficult situations all around, if the money goes to keeping the bathroom clean, I can understand the small fee.

But I have my doubts about where the money collected every day ends up. I would like to think it’s used to buy cleaning products. However, I suspect that money is already included in the budget the hospital allocates to general janitorial work. I sometimes also think that someone is collecting money to get the other bathroom working again, or to install dearly needed running water in the two bathrooms. To date, nothing of the sort has happened.

It would be unfair to conclude the woman keeps the money, for I have no proof of this. Something tells me, however, that, if this hypothesis were true, it would not be the worst case scenario. The money, after all, could end up in someone else’s hands, someone who doesn’t even have to work in the bathroom all day.

I know people’s low incomes and needs are used to justify practically every misdeed in the country, but wrong is wrong and we can’t call it any other way.

According to my calculations, the lady at the bathroom must collect some 50 pesos every day, for a total of 1,500 a month. That should be more than enough to have a fully functional bathroom.

Charging people to use the bathroom has become common in the country. It’s the way some establishments have of making extra money. The problem is that the money always ends up in the pockets of someone who doesn’t look after the bathrooms, and these are often disgustingly filthy and without running water.


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.

6 thoughts on “On Cuba’s Public Bathrooms

  • Finding that middle ground is the hardest part.

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