By Safie M. Gonzalez
HAVANA TIMES – Last Saturday, a friend invited me to the “26th Street Zoo”, in Havana, which is how all of us Cubans know it, especially the capital’s residents. It had been closed for a good while because of the pandemic and it recently opened its doors to the public again (I don’t know when exactly).
She wanted to take her young niece, who loves animals, and to be honest, I love them too. It wasn’t my first visit to the zoo, of course, I’d been lots of times, taking my nephew who is a teenager now already. Although, to tell you the truth, it might as well have been my first visit, because some things took me by surprise more than normal.
For starters, we had to wait in a long line to get into the zoo, an hour at least; and I don’t ever remember this happening before. It’s understandable though, given the fact that parents have very few options to entertain their children. But people stuck out the wait because at the end of the day, what Cuban isn’t used to standing in line? The second thing that struck me was the price of entry. A sign explained that adults had to pay 10 Cuban pesos (CUP) and children 5, but when looking at the price on the children’s ticket, it said 2 pesos.
On the back of this same ticket, it said “El Cocodrilo” Restaurant, where you could supposedly have lunch, but the only things on the menu were: “duck in sauce”; “boiled pumpkin” and “white rice”. Despite there not being a lot on the menu, people were eating lunch there, and even standing in line to enter what “seemed” to be a restaurant.
I was even more shocked to see that at the old stalls, where they used to sell sweets (scarce in normal times), you could find everything, from different flavored sorbets to delicious mini sweets, at an exorbitant price, including soda in cans. Watch out though, because these sales don’t belong to the zoo, but to the “self-employed” who rent out the space and sell their merchandise, but…
How can a place like this, where so many children go to visit, not guarantee sweets and at an affordable price? Where both families with greater purchasing power and those with less, are able to access cheaper offers for their children… Where has our famous socialism gone? The equality that we boast about so much to the rest of the world.