Everyday Details about Cuba’s Worsening Crisis

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES – There’s nothing better than everyday details to give you a better idea of the scope and repercussions of the crisis that is getting worse as the days pass by here in Cuba. For example, my cooking oil is about to run out and I have no idea where the next liter is going to come from.

What we get with the rations’ booklet is just enough for the first week and I managed to get the cooking oil we’re using now thanks to a friend, who went to Sabaneta in Guantanamo for work and they still had some because there aren’t many people living there. He bought two bottles and gave me one.

Here in Mayari, they’ve only bottles of oil on the shelves of hard-currency store shelves two or three times since the beginning of this year. They sell two liters per person and crowds come to line up, everyone calling each other on their cell phones. It immediately runs out. The same thing happens with chicken, which I was able to buy last month because I found out from someone working at the market while they were “giving the news” to someone else near me. But, I wasn’t so lucky now in February.

On the other hand, my children have been quite sick with a terrible flu “that is going around”. To tell you the truth, we’ve all had it (I’ve mentioned this in a previous article), but I focus on the kids because they are the most vulnerable.

It’s sad not being able to buy a thermometer to measure a fever because they aren’t being sold anywhere. Before, health professionals would steal them from the hospital and sell them on the street, but even that isn’t happening anymore. Just imagine, when my daughter was admitted to the hospital, they had to go to another room to look for a thermometer because there wasn’t a single one in the Children’s Ward. Incredible, right?

But, we didn’t even have medicine to treat the virus’ symptoms in the beginning. I was lucky that stock came in half-way through their cold and I was able to buy multivitamins, oral suspension of paracetamol and loratadine. The latter came just in time because I was giving my three-year-old daughter a quarter of an antihistamine tablet for adults, which the doctor hesitatingly recommended because there wasn’t a weaker version for children. There was no other way to stop her allergic reaction.

Right now, we’re all out of deoderant at home. I’m sure that men and women from the Stone Age didn’t get embarrassed with bad-smelling armpits after chasing a woolly mammoth or running away from a saber-toothed tiger, but we’re used to a basic level of decency nowadays.

Presently, there isn’t any deodorant in Mayari. Yesterday, I asked a relative in Holguin to get some, but they didn’t have any there neither. I called relatives in Santiago de Cuba and they told me that they sell a few sometimes, but they fly off the shelves.

I finally managed to locate deoderant after calling and calling, but in Matanzas! A friend has already bought me five, for me and some relatives, and she will send them to me on a bus that is coming from Havana with someone she knows. I will send her the money by post straight away. It’s a good thing that human solidarity hasn’t finished although the hostile conditions we’re living in are definitely putting it in crisis.

Here, agro-markets are stepping on each other’s toes, wherever you go Pork can’t be found absolutely anywhere. There isn’t any more feed for pigs, nor pigs, nor pork meat. People joke and say that the Armageddon of pigs is upon us. And, like Buena Fe say in a song, pigs are the national animal because it is the most-consumed meat.

Yesterday, my neighbor Panchito killed a pig that he himself had reared and a mob of people had surrounded him before he finished preparing it, asking for the pounds they wanted to buy. There were 100 pounds of meat all in all and he needed a thousand pounds to satisfy the demand of his desperate neighbors. I was lucky because I was one of the first people to find out. I bought my two pounds, which is how he decided to ration it so that it would reach more people. Of course, most of them couldn’t buy it.

Let me end with another example, because there are so many that I could write a big fat volume. My cousin Marcelo tells me about his 27-year-old son, who has everything ready to leave for Nicaragua before the end of this month. “He doesn’t want to live in this country anymore, he’s got the idea stuck in his head. I managed to get him a job and he didn’t want to even start, he says that he won’t work for anyone for 500 pesos (20 usd).” Marcelo was upset because his son didn’t want to work like him and because of how risky the journey is awaiting him to get to the US.

I believe that I helped cheer him up a little when I made him see that his son was only showing signs of being an intelligent young man because 500 pesos are just 20 CUC, and that’s what a pair of pants or a pair of poor-quality shoes costs. Young people don’t want to grow old like us, waiting for the Government to turn dirt into gold. This system didn’t work, it isn’t working and it will never work.

This is the situation here in our beautiful Cuba right now; this is how our people are living; this is how we will see in February 24th when we vote in a referendum on the new constitution. And, we are only being offered the “continuity” of something that hasn’t worked for 60 years. This is why I’ll Vote No because I want a better Cuba. And a better Cuba is possible.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

Osmel Ramirez has 167 posts and counting. See all posts by Osmel Ramirez

13 thoughts on “Everyday Details about Cuba’s Worsening Crisis

  • I’ve read some of your articles and it saddens me. I’m writing a research and chose to study Cuba because I do think that people should know the situation there. Just last week, I did not know Cuba has this worsening crisis if I had not read of your article that I was about to pass from scrolling. If you’re willing to share me a thought, what do you think are the five most challenges Cuba is facing?

  • The embargo excludes medicine yet Cubans lack medicine. The problem is obviously NOT the embargo.

  • Cuba is really bad and Venezuela is even worse.
    You’re heading down a similar path.

  • I am heading to Cuba in March. We will be close to church in Varadero. Will the church accept items and give them to the people if I bring 3 suit cases of needed items? I know it’s not much.

  • It is NOT socialism that’s to blame. It is what the government of Cuba does in the name of socialism that is to blame!!!
    Socialism could work if the leaders cared as much about their people as they do for themselves!
    A greedy government is the problem in this Country.
    I will be visiting again soon and I plan to fill my suitcase with all the things you need and try to help as many ppl possible. And I will tell everyone I know to do the same!!!
    I wish there was more I could do!
    I’m just grateful that you welcome us so graciously into your beautiful Country and as Canadians we will continue to care for you all as best we can. Things are not always easy here in canada but we are definitely not starving or lacking basic needs. NO ONE should have to live that way!!! I really admire the Cuban people for always having a smile on their face and and being so welcoming considering the situations you find yourselves in? Its the beauty of not only the country but the locals who keep me coming back???

    See you soon!


  • The Cuban people are being starved to death just like the people of Venezuela are now.
    Yes, things will get worse for sure if the Cubans don’t vote NO on the new Constitution.
    The Cubans need to take to the streets and protest due to the lack of food and medicine. It sounds like they can’t even get the allotment on their ration cards. How sad!
    Socialism doesn’t work and CUBA has proven that!!!

  • If embargos were lifted,….maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?

  • Amazing description and sugestions. It is all true unfortunatelly.
    The comunism in Cuba is mild compared to North Coreea but at the end does no good to people.

  • A little baking soda moistened and rubbed under armpits is a very effective deodorant

  • If you decide to go, which is something you should decide for yourselves, bare in mind the shortages in Cuba, especially when staying outside the all inclusive hotels! Whatever you eat, can’t be eaten by a Cuban!
    Preferably don’t go to the all inclusive hotels (joint ventures of Cuba and big foreign turist companies), but stay in casas particulares so you bring money into the communities.
    Pack clothes and other stuff sparingly – and then fill your suitcases and carry on board luggage to the maximum allowed weight of your flight with stuff the Cubans can use and need. Medical stuff like paracetamol, ibuprofen, cough medicine, thermometers, vitamins, blood pressure monitor, histamine, bandaids, … Other light weight useful items like fishing lines, fishing hooks, peeling knife, sewing needles, toothbrushes, deodorant, … Don’t give these to the owners of the casa, but visit a less/non turistic neighbourhood or town, where the Cubans live that don’t have jobs that bring them in contact with turists (and their tips and other gifts) and distribute it all there, while engaging in a conversation to find out about the real life in Cuba. Or bring the medical stuff to a local hospital or doctor.

  • Cuba reminds me of the 1950 in Canada it’s a great place to visit I love the culture and history. Cuba should be brought up to level of other countries people should not have to suffer when we have so much to offer.

  • I read your posts. So sad to see what state Cuba is becoming. We were there in June of last year. It was bad then. At hotels on day we have a scrumptious buffet bfast next day the hotel tells u ..no bfast they run out.
    The people are amazing always smiling. The children are missing so much. We took many presents to give even sweets were mostly appreciated. We even gave the soap and shower gels from the hotels.
    There was a shortage of everything, no shops to talk about.
    Now things seem to be getting worse my heart goes out to the people.
    Cuba is a fantastic tourist attraction and surely the government could improve on this factor.

  • Interesting article

    We love to travel to Cuba (4 times), with all these issues, is it helpful for us to travel and vacation there, or is it
    better for us and your people if we don’t go and spend money in Cuba?

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