Cuba: One More ‘Self-employed Worker’

Regina Cano

A place for self employed workers to sell the wares.

HAVANA TIMES — People took her for crazy and constantly made fun of her. She would put on bright lipstick and wears high heels and use skimpy clothes. All of this began at 9:00 am there at the shopping center.

Now she’s a “self-employed worker,” walking with the same cadence as before but with the difference that in that same shopping center she has a little spot to sell her wares.

One can now see her dragging a suitcase as well as a little table on her shoulder. Her figure has filled out more, she’s fatter.

She used to sit on the benches in the passageway, among the everyday passersby and along with the people selling used shoes or plastic grocery bags as well as those peddling cream cheese and butter. Likewise, the folks selling their coffee rations or their government supply of sanitary napkins, the people selling clothespins or anything else they could get their hands on to keep their illegal trade going in the passageway of that shopping center.

But she didn’t do any of that. Without an apparent occupation, she was not affected by the ups and downs of the economies of other people. She had no concern about the filth all over that public place or about the mangy dogs always eating near or behind the bakery. She maintained her position as a kind of guard, sitting on the edge of the bench with her knees together, her hands on top of them and her heels parallel.

She would look on with a certain indifference mixed with mischief, with her chin titled upwards on her round face.

Now she has adopted another posture and sits in a different place, though still in the same corridor. She sits on a low stool, her clothes still too tight, and showing her thick white thighs. She’ll have her little wheeled suitcase to one side while on the table are displayed her wares.

She sells Crazy glue, earrings, necklaces and any other product that turns over quickly and that not everyone can buy because they sell out fast in the stores. This resale allows her to make a few pesos above the official price, since Alamar is now just another suburb with its limited stores less stocked than those in the city.

Now she’s a “self-employed worker,” so drunks don’t mill around her expecting to win her favors. She’s not seen in the McDonera* among the laughter, beers or an occasional companion. No more is she found conversing along the wall with some man or, like many people say, “waiting along the roadside of the Via Blanca highway.”

Now perhaps someone could paraphrase what used to be said about how “the revolution changed their life.” Now they could say that “self-employment changed the life” of that woman with very white skin, the one who prefers the color red for her daily overly done makeup and who everyone has branded as crazy.
* “McDonera”: The name that remains of what people used to call the “McDonalds” fast-food restaurants, though they never were.