Hardship Threatens to Swallow Us

Garbage piled up after the hurricane

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – It’s Friday and I return home after being away for almost a week. I finally have electricity. They put it on a few days ago, but just for those of us who live at the entrance to the town. The rest (the majority) are still experiencing a blackout that has been drawn out for over 20 days.

I turn on the fridge and put some water in to chill. According to my neighbor, we’ve been enjoying electricity for over 20 hours per day, obviously because half of the province still doesn’t have any. I’m sure when they repair all of the damage, we’ll go back to the blackout schedule we had before.

My food reserves are almost up. I have two tins of meat to accompany rice and beans. If things were hard before, things have got a lot worse after the hurricane struck.

Life in Cuba is a never-ending challenge. Just when you think you’ve reached rock bottom, something happens to make you feel like you could be a lot worse.

I have bodega ration store bread with a bit of powdered milk, which I can still get for now, for breakfast. It’s Saturday, the day I visit my daughter, but I also need to find something to eat. You can’t find anything in my poor town.

I get dressed and head for the highway, because there isn’t any public transport in rural areas and interior towns, or practically zero anyway.

Markets are virtually empty.

When I get there, I find approximately 10 people, some have been waiting far too long for a good samaritan to pick them up. The highway is pretty much empty, there are hardly any cars. The only hope we have is one of those few private trucks that provide an expensive and uncomfortable transport service.

One stops close to an hour later. I pay for the ticket and get onto this metal box where it seems not one more person could squeeze in amongst the crowd. I get off at the Consolacion junction after 10 minutes, which seems like an eternity. I wait for a horse-drawn cart and I finally get there.

It’s mid-morning, I have some MLC (a magnetic dollar currency), which I have to thank for being able to buy food. I tell my little girl, let’s go to store, maybe we’ll buy something to eat. She goes with me enthusiastically; she speculates about the candy she wants me to buy her.

Half of Consolacion is without electricity, I just hope these stores have it so we can find something, but no, they are shut. She gets annoyed, but a man is selling withered apples opposite the store. I buy one, it costs 100 pesos, as well as a small peanut nougat for 50 pesos, there isn’t anything else.

We walk down many streets, no root vegetables, everything’s “flown”. But there is plenty of rubble, tree trunks and garbage to be collected.

They were selling sweet potatoes at the market, but they’d run out by the time we got there. People took them all.  This hardship is threatening to swallow us whole.

I ask my daughter’s mother what they have to eat. “Don’t worry, the girl has powdered milk which I managed to buy last week, we have rice, beans, a box of eggs and some root vegetables her grandfather managed to find.”

Good, I’m a little more relieved. My girl is thin but she’s round, rosy. I drop her off at home and go back to mine.

On the way back, I receive a call, it’s my best friend who’s asking me if he can keep his minced meat that he managed to get in my fridge because it’s going bad.

He was quite a big eater, but he was diagnosed with diabetes and now he takes great care of himself, he eats a healthy diet and has managed to lose weight, I guess it’s easier now with the “temporary crisis”.

“Do you know anyone selling plantains or something in your area?” I ask him.

“Nope, the guy who brings me things to sell doesn’t have anything.

“Well, I’m on my way, when I get home I’ll ring you so you can come. If you see anything by chance, buy some for me.”

“Don’t worry, if I find anything I’ll bring it for you.”

I get home and nothing, there’s nothing. I have one tin of meat left. I have to make it last until Monday. 

Read more from the diary of Pedro Pablo Morejon here.