Hunting Down Toothpaste in Today’s Cuba

By Safie M. Gonzalez

A medium size tube of Closeup toothpaste for nearly 7 USD.

HAVANA TIMES – Toothpaste is a highly sought-after product in our dear Cuba, today. The reality is that it hasn’t completely disappeared, but has just gone missing from “normal” stores. I say “normal” stores because if you look online, you can find different types for exorbitant prices.

A few days ago, I set out with the mental determination to find it, as it was already running out at home, and, to tell you the truth, it’s horrible brushing your teeth with just water, or with sodium bicarbonate, which is what many people resorted to in the Special Period back in the ‘90s, not to mention the damage this can do to our teeth.

So, in my desperate hunt, I came across a seller who was selling it for no more and no less than 6 CUC* (150 CUP). Close up toothpaste, which in “normal” times, is sold in stores for the “modest” price of 1.40 CUC (approx. 35 CUP).

I clearly ruled out this possibility, determined to find something a little cheaper, but I didn’t have any luck, unfortunately. The following day, a streetseller came to my house with toothpaste for little kids, which she was selling for 50 CUP or 2 CUC. I obviously bought it, as I my options were running out.

Toothpaste for children.

It hurts to see how resellers are tripling the price of certain products that can’t be found in stores, and are basic essentials too, during these tough times.

I wonder: How did these resellers get a hold of them if they aren’t being sold in stores?

There are plenty of questions, and likely answers leave a lot to be desired, as we are still in a vicious cycle which I don’t believe we’ll be able to escape, sadly, because this chain of shortages and illegal activity leads us to a bitter truth.

Food shortages and the long lines to be able to take some food home aren’t the only things to be concerned about, because on top of that, we will have to learn to live with dirty teeth.

I think, once again, about the elderly who receive approximately 300 Cuban pesos (CUP) or 15 USD per month as a pension, and won’t be able to spend 50, in the best of cases, on toothpaste. Not to mention the fact that no regular Cuban can afford to pay 6 CUC for it, let alone in times of a pandemic, when they are only receiving 60% of their wage.

*1 USD = 0.87 CUC and 20 CUP

Safie M. Gonzalez

I was born in the 80's. I love nature and animals, as well as my country. I admire the sacrifice of a people. I consider myself a simple and honest person, therefore I detest injustices. I have a taste for the arts in general, but especially for literature, photography, and cinema. I believe in the power of the word and in the ability of the human being to change the world.

8 thoughts on “Hunting Down Toothpaste in Today’s Cuba

  • Things must be improving for the pensioners in Cuba. At the time when my mother-in-law died less than two years ago, she was receiving 200 pesos per month. .

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  • When I was in Cuba five years ago, I ran out of dental floss. The only place where I get get it was a CUC-only store.

    Reply
  • My dentist here in London along with other dentists have been providing me with boxes of traveling size toothpaste for Cubans for years and i long to get to Cuba again to pass more out…

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  • We somehow need to help them???

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  • I am a foreigner currently in Cuba and I am willing to pay the 6 cuc, or the children’s one, instead of an enormous bill for my teeth when I leave Cuba after the pandemic. I have been brushing with water for a month… The question is where can I find it? Where is the street seller?

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    • I’m stuck here for 135 days now ?

      Reply
  • It is sad to see the struggle that Cuban people have for basic products like toothpaste but unfortunately that is the result of a communist government that kills the economy. I was born and lived in Cuba for several years and I am very familiar with those scarcities as I experienced them. I am glad to see that at least somebody is exposing this to the rest of the world.

    Reply

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