Going Shopping: How Depressing!

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 8 – In many of the films made in the United States, especially the more commercial ones, there’s often a protagonist who flees their depressed emotions by making a great shopping trip.

Going to the stores and buying what you need and what you don’t is an “enormous pleasure” that sells very well in everyone’s advertising spots.

In our country, for the Cuban on the street, the very opposite occurs:

Some of my most significant attacks of depression occur when I have to enter a store to buy an essential product.

The price of the merchandise continually rises to exorbitant levels; at the same time the more affordable items disappear from the shelves for long periods of time.

Currently, for example, Kerol brand shampoo and conditioner – products which are highly sought after by a large portion of the population since they only cost 1 CUC (around $1.10 USD) – are missing.

Then there’s the dilemma of the discounts:

There’s never any such discount from the original price of a food product; when in some way an item does arrive at an affordable price, it’s usually because the expiration date has long since passed.  Even then, it gets sold.

My sister is an authentic example of this phenomenon.  In her zeal to put on heels to go to work, every so often she’ll spend the whole day going from store to store, from the largest to the least frequented, in order to find some cheap shoes that will later come apart on her, usually some ten days after acquiring them.

This has happened to her an untold number of times, but she won’t back down and continues to lose her money in this miserable way.

Even though my idea of pleasure isn’t strictly related to a splendid consumption of products, I confess that survival would be more satisfying to me if the things that I sometimes look for I could find at a reasonable price and good quality.

Going to the shops in Cuba has become a real conflict for me:

The tumult of people that are always found there – on the hunt for a product at a low price that could be resold for a profit -, the grudging attention of the salespeople, and the scarcity of articles I can afford has produced in me a profound aversion and an never-ending state of dejection.

One thought on “Going Shopping: How Depressing!

  • Perhaps shopping in Habana should be viewed not, as here in the U.S., as just temporary therapy to relieve chronic depression or boredom, but rather in mytholgic terms, like some latter-day Odyssey, Quest for the Golden Fleece, or Search for the Holy Grail?! During my last visit to Habana in 2010, I can remember such a quest myself. Due to carelessly allowing a bar of soap to pop out of my hands and into a nearby toilet at a friend’s home, it became necessary to find a toilet plunger (his, from the pre-Revolutionary, or perhaps the Soviet) era, had throughly ossified). Thus begain an incredible journey. My friend and I search from one end of Habana to the other: various “shoppin” (i.e. hard-currency, CUC stores) in Centro and the Vedado, Nautico, and even the “Diplomatico,” but each time coming up empty handed. What is the expression? “You can search the world far-and-wide for something that, all the time, was right under your nose!” And so it was with us! After criss-crossing Habana numerous times on the P-14, P-4, P-5, etc. buses, we finally we found the fabled plunger at a lowly CUP store just a few blocks from his house, further down Avenida 51, in Arroyo Arenas! Bringing the fabled black orb on a stick, we had a real sense of triumph returning home, much like Jason upon obtaining the Golden Fleece!

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