By Rosa Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – When the Cuban government announced that it would not only be selling top-of-the-range electrical appliances and spare car parts in US dollars, but also food and hygiene items, I literally screamed blue murder.
I tried to understand that, yes, the State needs hard currency to import other essential. However, just like most people, I couldn’t get my head around it.
I must admit I was really annoyed, even promising myself I would never step foot in one of these establishments. But what your heart feels is one thing, and the reality you’re forced to endure every day is another.
At first, the government assured us it wouldn’t stop selling these items in other stores that accept Cuban currency. In reality, everybody knew that these products would slowly disappear from normal stores, only to appear in the dollar stores.
This happened with spaghetti, toothpaste and deodorant, just to give you a few examples.
You know what, my dear friends, I had to set my anger aside and apply for this damned foreign currency card. Need was stronger than logic.
With the magnetic device in my hand, my dilemma was now how to put some money onto the card. What do I do if I only have a few friends living abroad with the same financial problems I have and more? Also, the police are persecuting foreign currency hustlers, as the State doesn’t sell dollars legally to us.
Now I had the card, but what about the dollars?
I thought it would be difficult to get hold of 30 or 40 dollars. I had seen reports on the TV news reports on the crackdown regarding different illegal businesses. However, it proved a lot easier to get these dollars than to get the damned card.
A call here, a contact there and I had the dolores (headache), I mean dollars, on my card in the blink of an eye.
With the money in hand, I mean on the card, I decided to take my first trip to one of these stores.
I was expecting to be taken aback by the great number of products, both food and hygiene items, on display there, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Reality is that after the first few days of this store being open, people rarely find what they are really looking for.
That day, I couldn’t find what I needed: deodorant, shampoo, conditioner. However, I was able to see the large number of people who hung around outside the place. Without cards of their own, they were begging for a charitable soul to make a purchase for them. Some soap, juice or anything else that you can only find in these stores right now.
It really was heartbreaking. I hope for Cuba’s and my own sake, that this becomes a thing of the past very soon.