By Safie M. Gonzalez
HAVANA TIMES – My childhood was in the 1990s, when Cuba began its so-called “Special Period.” I remember blackouts, shortages, people’s inventions to eat, wash, dress and wear shoes. The high prices, but even so, many Cubans trusted in an improvement, in going back to being what one day we were.
I lived in the province of Villa Clara, in a country town, and my parents worked far from where we lived, even far from polyclinics and hospitals, so whenever we needed to go out, we had to do it in whatever way possible. And that meant, almost always, trucks or trailers, because public transport was as scarce as it is now.
Today I live in Havana, the capital of all Cubans, and almost thirty years have passed since then, and every time I have to go anywhere, I remember those times and I even think it was better to get on a truck or a trailer, where , each person who also needed the vehicle, was able to lend a hand to climb on and did not mistreat us as if we were animals in search of survival.
Today, there is little oil, or spare parts for the buses. And the lines at the bus stops are blocks long, and when the bus arrives, after one or two hours of waiting, then hardly anyone respects their turn. Usually someone argues, curses, and pushes whoever they have to pass, without respecting women, pregnant women, the elderly or physically disabled.
It isn’t worth having dressed clean and use perfume, we will arrive at our final destination smelling of an unpleasant mixture of odors, with dirty shoes and wrinkled clothes. Because we literally go on top of each other. And the chauffeur or driver only knows how to say: “move forward, there is more space, the bus is empty”. It is always the same, and the passengers are more uncomfortable.
We are crazy to arrive, to advance, it is getting late, the sweat runs down our foreheads, our backs. The different smells, the poor ventilation, the music of the bus itself, or of some unconscious passenger that carries a speaker at full blast with the latest song in fashion, which far from relaxing alters. All this makes the morning a total chaos.
All this history will be repeated in the afternoon, and in worse conditions. And it is not possible to take a collective taxi, a “botero”, as we say here, because of the impossible price to pay this service. In short, our “Special Period”, the one that began in the nineties, travels by metropolitan bus and has no spare parts.