HAVANA TIMES — Not even two months have passed since its opening, but Havana’s La Casa de las Conservas (House of Preserves) already looks like a shadow of the establishment that opened its doors in September. Few products, windows almost empty and the discouragement of a clientele who believed that the state business was going to last a little longer before declining so precipitously.
“The problem in this country is that nothing has a fixative,” laments a customer, referring to the characteristic of a good perfume that allows its aroma to linger for long hours. This lack has definitely been the case for the state store, located on Ayestarán street, between May 19 and Néstor Sardiñas, in the municipality of Cerro, an establishment that the Havana Tribune promised on September 12 “will have a permanence of products” that “will be controlled and regulated.”
The House of Preserves has not been able to support the pulse of a very high demand or the fluctuations of supply, in a country that is experiencing one of its worst economic crises in the last half century. The attractive products at the opening gave way to jams and vinegar supplied by mini-industries and much less valued by customers. They arrived without labels, they only had a small piece of paper attached with the description of the content and in very rustic packaging. The quality of the contents also left a lot to be desired.
This Wednesday, only two products were for sale: a tomato and olive based salsa manzanillera, and a thick liquid of “seasoned onion,” neither of much interest to buyers. Passersby raised their eyebrows at the nearly empty list of products on the display board, shrugged their shoulders and in many cases launched a phrase against the state’s mismanagement of commerce.
The shortage cannot even be attributed to customers’ hoarding, as the store opened with the restriction that allowed customers to purchase only one of each item and required that their identity card be scanned “so that the same person does not buy again for a month” a buyer complained on September 13.
In its beginnings, when the curfew was still in force until five in the morning, desperate buyers hid in nearby portals and stairways to be among the first in line at the store. But now, “it’s no longer worth it,” confirms a nearby resident, who then complained about the noises of those who lurked behind the trees or in the hallways. But she also misses the options to store offered to solve her problems of what to put on the table.
“It lasted less than a bad can of preserves,” she jokes. “But not just any can, but one of those that looks rusty from the moment you buy it and you know that when you open it the tomato puree will spew out to the ceiling,” she explains with the longing of those who had been able to buy there “products that weren’t fancy or high quality but they did help stretch a meal.”