Dumping a Million

Veronica Fernandez

Cojimar, Havana

A few days ago I went to a supermarket here in my town, Cojimar, a community located on the eastern edge of Havana.  I had 5 CUCs ($6.25 USD) that I had guarded with much care for any urgent need that might present itself in relation to eating.

That was a day in which I had absolutely nothing to cook in the house.  Therefore I rummaged through an old trunk of memories and found this note that would constitute my salvation.  I remember that I came home early from work and went to the neighborhood supermarket, which generally maintains a stable selection of fresh meat.

Hoping to buy some portion of chicken, I was hurrying myself along because I wanted to get back home that much sooner to start cooking so I could eat early.  As I approached the store, it seemed rather desolate.  Usually people were always converging there, so this image I found rather strange.  I looked at my watch to check if I’d perhaps made a mistake and the place had already closed.

When I got up to the door, I realized that it was in fact open, but when I went in I found the refrigerated bins for meat products completely empty.  There was nothing of anything.

I asked an employee what had happened and she responded very calmly saying that for more than 15 days the freezers had been broken, no one had yet come out to fix them and though products had been delivered to the store, these had to be turned back because of the situation.

When I asked her when the equipment would be repaired, she simply looked me in the face and walked away into the supposed storage area in the back of the store.  I wanted to say so many things that I just stood there, myself frozen in that very same spot.

Nonetheless, I realized that it wasn’t worth it to discuss the situation with her anyway.  The fact of the matter was that her bosses —the managers of the establishment— were the ones toward whom our demands needed to be directed concerning the proper treatment of the public, even when they didn’t have the answers.  Still, they needed to be called to the carpet for their failure to manage and for their irresponsibility in finding an immediate solution to a problem that directly affects the public.

On the way back to my house, simmering by the way, many questions came to my mind, those that thousands of people like me pose to themselves daily…people who must have wound up in the same situation.

How was it possible that a supermarket where you can only buy in CUCs (as opposed to domestic currency) all of the refrigerators could break down at the same time.  And how is it that they haven’t had any meat products to sell for more than 15 days?  Isn’t this mistreating the consumers?

How is it that after so many years of revolution these things still continue to happen?  Who’s to blame?  Who can we complain to?  What came to my mind was the definition of revolution given by Fidel when he said, “Revolution is to be treated and to treat others like human beings…… “

It is exceedingly difficult for any of us Cuban workers who —with the wages we’re paid— to shop in this type of store that sells in CUCs.  This is because our wages are paid in Cuban pesos (another type of currency in which 25 Cuban pesos are equal to 1 CUC).  However, if you add to this the fact that the average Cuban monthly salary is equal to 18 CUCs ($14 USD), it becomes obvious that it’s necessary to make tremendous efforts to hang onto 5 CUCs for emergencies like this.

But even with the money in hand, I wasn’t able to make the purchase, neither at this establishment or others where supply fails to match demand.

This revolution was made on the basis of the often repeated phrase of Jose Marti: “With all and for the good of all.”  It’s necessary to come up with a solution to these severe problems once and for all, and in an immediate way.  Perhaps it will be necessary to kick out a million managers, but what has to be very clear is that those who stay must know how to meet the demands of these times.

2 thoughts on “Dumping a Million

  • Hmmm? I agree., there’s “something fishy” about all the refrigeration/freezer units breaking down at the same time…but this reminds me, since you live in Cojimar, home Hemingway’s Pilar in the 1940’s and 1950’s, couldn’t you merely “cut bait and fish?” Alas! I forgot! First you would have to find some place that sells fishing line, fishing bait, hooks and sinkers, all of which are probably equally as unavailable. Sounds like the Myth of Sysiphus, except, in your case more a reality, less a myth. Oh well, as Alan Ginsberg once wrote: “When will I be able to enter a supermarket and buy whatever I want–with my good looks?”

  • As a visitor to Cuba on many occasions, I have observed that maintaining things
    – plumbing in particular, doesn’t seem to rate a high priority!

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