Getting Glasses in Cuba

by Elio Delgado Valdes

elio-001HAVANA TIMES — I am 55 years old and I’ve been using glasses ever since I was 30. It’s always been the same story for Cubans, getting your assigned time to get your eyesight checked at the polyclinic can take a good while.

You have to wake up at the crack of dawn and even then, you’re not sure that you will be seen. There are many issues: the first, that the doctor comes to work, or that the place isn’t fumigated on that day, or whether the electric company has come to change an electricity pole or is checking that everything works OK, and thus no electricity. Pregnant women and children have priority, we don’t question that. In short, there are a lot of things that get in the way.

When you do manage to get a prescription for your glasses, the optician is supposed to have frames and lenses, but that’s often not the case; when there’s one, then the other one is missing…

elio-005I’m not lying to you; I went to the Almendrares opticians located in front of the Capitolio building, a central and accessible place. A very friendly lady with a beautiful smile told me, you’re lucky, we have lenses for this prescription. She bent down behind the desk and took out a cardboard box, pure underdevelopment, and began to poke around, taking frames in and out, some were nice and others were horrible.

Without losing her smile, she looked at me and said that I wasn’t in complete luck, that I shouldn’t get down and should come back next week. On Tuesday, because they receive goods on Monday and surely some frame will be of use to me, I shouldn’t say this to customers, but I don’t want you to come here in vain.

Like the good Cuban I am, I thanked her for her secret information whispering just as she had done with me. The following Tuesday, I went to the opticians, I was third in line, when they opened, they didn’t give us any news, we sat down and after waiting my turn, the beautiful smile on that lady’s face told me that I wasn’t lucky today, that they are doing an inventory, they have to categorize all the material. But don’t give up, come next Monday.

elio-002On Monday September 12, 2016, I was the first in line and I was lucky, they had frames, lenses, electricity and a woman with a beautiful smile who handed me a receipt after I paid her $51.15 regular Cuban pesos (just over 2 USD), but said come back in 20 days to pick them up.

A dreamer and never losing my hope, I went on the day she told me to, very kind the lady, she took out a huge book, looked it over for a long while and found the page which coincided with my number 174-H. She raised her eyes and without losing her incredible equanimity, she told me to come back in 15 days, there’s been a delay at the workshop…

This story is just one among many others; the same thing happens if you go to a pharmacy looking for a salbutamol inhaler for your child or if you go to your family doctor so that they can refer you to a specialist. There is always something which goes wrong so you have to keep on going, no matter how urgent it is. We are a society where we have lost respect for our fellow Cuban.

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5 thoughts on “Getting Glasses in Cuba

  • January 30, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    So where can I donate used Rx glasses while in Cuba

  • February 15, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Hello, I see the question below about taking prescription glasses to Cuba. I do not see any reply’s, but I have the exact same question. I will be travelling in May/ 2017 to Cayo Santa Maria and have 15 pairs of script glasses. Does anybody have any good information on who and where I could donate these so the needy can benefit ?

  • December 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    I am wondering if it would be helpful to take prescription glasses to Cuba – they could possibly use the frame? Any thoughts?

  • December 29, 2016 at 10:55 am

    You must get a little impatient with being patient all the time; I’m sure it builds character……..Cubans do have character! These are the events tourists don’t see and don’t understand. I love hearing all aspects!

  • December 29, 2016 at 10:51 am

    There is an optician located on Obispo Street in the heart of Old Havana that can prepare glasses made to order within a week. Obviously the problem Elio faced is not a Cuban problem. It’s a “socialism” problem. The store on Obispo Street sells glasses in CUC. They can deliver almost on demand. The store in front of the Capitolio building sells glasses to regular Cubans in CUP. See the difference?

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