Cuba’s Financial Headaches

Rosa Martínez

Store where Cubans can buy their subsidized rations. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — It’s clear not all Cubans have the same economic situation, but what’s certain is that the vast majority have salaries that last them a mere 8 to 10 days (counting basic food products), and that, the remaining 20 days of the month, they have to what I do: work miracles to acquire essential products.

Though no one in Cuba is starving, providing a family with the three fundamental meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is a real headache, particularly for those of us who work in the State sector and have no access to Cuban or other hard currencies.

Yesterday was one of those days in which I awoke to find we didn’t even have enough grains to throw together some rice and beans, one of Cuba’s most common meals – not only because it is easy to make, but because it is the cheapest (or used to be).

The situation was serious, but not too serious, because I had 50 pesos at hand – 50 regular pesos, don’t think for a moment they were CUCs.

Fifty Cuban pesos (around two US dollars) isn’t much, not even in Cuba, my readers will likely say, and they will be right – but it’s better than nothing, right? It would be worse to have no food and absolutely no money.

I went out to get some food with this small fortune in hand. My older daughter was coming home early from school and I had to have lunch ready.

I did the math to see what the most economic and productive option was. After adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing a few times, I gave up. The money was just enough to buy two pounds of rice (10 pesos), two pounds of beans (30 pesos), two and a half pounds of cassava (5 pesos) and two avocados (5 pesos).

So many calculations gave me a splitting headache. I felt the world spinning around me, like after one comes down from a ride at an amusement park.

I had solved the big problem, and my head understood this well, but, since it’s smarter than I am, it still ached, because it knew that I would be facing the same problem in two days’ time.

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

10 thoughts on “Cuba’s Financial Headaches

  • October 1, 2014 at 9:37 am

    The answer, of course, is to supplement your pitiful state wage by offering your services or skills in the private sector (such as tutoring, as exemplified by the current diary entry of Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov “Are Private Schools Emerging in Cuba”). Throughout most of my active working years–1960’s ’til I retired,in 2009– and I am I still work part-time, teaching) besides my regular, full-time job, I worked many part-time jobs as well. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, for example, in addition to working for a special program for older, non-tradition students at a university (you would call it the Worker’s Faculty), I owned a bookshop, offered editorial and research assistance for students writing M.A.’s and Ph.D’s, taught part-time at a secondary school, worked as weekend house manager at a homeless shelter, etc. Often, to give my children a better life, I worked 70, 80 and even 90 hours per week. (During one period, I even worked the overnight shift, from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., then raced off to teach school the next morning, from 8:00 a.m. ’til 1:30 p.m., and only slept in three or four-hour stretches when I could. Eventually, of course, this had an adverse effect on my health, but these are the sacrifices I made to give my son, and later my two daughters, a better life.

  • September 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I have booked the Iberostar Varadero starting November 2. What cities do you live in ? I live in Port Alberni and we have over 25% on welfare and most are over natural weight.

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