The Crime of Carpentry in Cuba

By Fernando Ravsberg

carpintero-cubano-800x400HAVANA TIMES — A store called La casa del carpintero (“The Carpenter’s House”) has opened on Belascoain Street, in Havana’s neighborhood of Centro Habana. The store sells all kinds of carpentry tools, including very good brands. However, they don’t sell any kind of wood.

Talking to one of the clerks there, he tells me that there isn’t a single store in the country that sells wood. The only way to get it is to buy it in the black market, which sells wood stolen from State institutions or procured illegally in the forest.

Government officials continue to “study” the possibility of opening wholesale markets where the self-employed can buy their supplies. I imagine they are probably asking themselves: why hurry with the wholesale stores if the black market works better every day?

7 thoughts on “The Crime of Carpentry in Cuba

  • During the drive for the Ten Million Ton Harvest, thousands of acres of forest were bulldozed to plant sugar cane. Typically, Castro destroyed the real wealth of Cuba in search of his quixotic dream of Utopia.

  • No bjmac, not even close!

  • Also ironic that Cuba has or used to have a lot of renewable pine trees. They even had an island named Isla de Pinos which of course is now Isla de la Juventud. Maybe they cut them all down and had to change the name? I never figured out why they changed the name.

  • I once asked my Cuban friends why there are no “Home Depot” type stores in Cuba. The universal response was that the Castros did not want to make it any easier for Cubans to build boats to facilitate escaping their socialist “paradise”. The irony is that Cuba sells for export a type of rare hardwood grown in eastern Cuba that is used for fine furniture and highly valued around the world.

  • Fernando, I’m not saying NYC is like Cuba but if it wasn’t for the underground economy in NYC there probably wouldn’t be an economy. A bit different in Cuba but hey, maybe close/?
    Bureaucracy in any language is a long word…

  • My colleagues and I in the nonprofit “Horns to Havana” visit Cuba periodically to train and help musical instrument technicians working for el Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte (CNEART). Preparing for a visit in the spring of 2012, we sent plans for workbenches in anticipation of them being built and in place in a new workshop when we arrived. Instead, we found that the benches couldn’t be built due to the lack of lumber. I remember a group of us scrounging around behind some centros comerciales, looking for pallets to recycle. Strangely, I also remember stopping into a ferreteria where a complete, self-contained sauna was for sale.

  • It has been a constant sense of amazement to me for years, that it is impossible to legally purchase wood in Cuba. There are many skilled craftsmen able to make excellent furniture – as illustrated by our dining room and bedroom furniture.
    Our dining table is 6′ 6″ long and beautifully made from re-cycled wood – former screw holes being plugged. the table top apart from the 6″ wide surround is made from re-claimed plate glass. The six chairs are similarly made from recycled wood and with beautiful carving.
    Our bedroom furniture similarly is made from re-cycled wood and again with beautiful carving.
    The prices were little more than the cheap junk sold by the military owned shops.
    It is a wonderful example of the potential for development of a capitalist economy in Cuba.
    When constructing concrete work some of which like our stairs, the skilled tradesmen have to use old pieces of timber to make the form work. Concrete was used rather than wood to construct the framework necessary when we improved our kitchen which was then tiled – again with great skill.
    Fernando is right when he indicates the vital role played in the Cuban economy by the black market – it is more efficient than the regimes Socialismo.

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