“The truth is that we don’t know if we are going to get to the counter before Friday”
HAVANA TIMES – Yuleidi was thinking about going to a concert on Friday December 23 at Casa de la Obra Pia in Old Havana but it was cancelled for lack of an audience. When she pressed for more information, the explanation she got is one that has become common for many of the capital’s cultural events. Nobody is going to anything; everyone is waiting in line to buy pork.
This year, buying pork that the government has made available for the holiday season is harder that ever.
There are complaints that, in some cases, the pork being sold looks bad and smells worse. As though that were not bad enough, a whole cut costs thousands of pesos, the lines to buy it are slow and the holidays are only a few days away.
Silvia, Xiomara and Maria Eugenia — neighbors from the Revolution Plaza district — told 14ymedio that they had banded together to split a whole cut of pork, which is priced at 7,500 pesos (between US $43 and $63 depending on the exchange rate). They are still waiting.
When contacted a few days ago, they thought it would soon be their turn. There were only eighty people ahead of them. The meat went on sale on Wednesday.
As of today however, there were inexplicably 600 people ahead of them. “We don’t really know if we’ll get to the sales counter before Friday,” says Maria Eugenia.
Pork lines are also becoming scenes of violence. More than a few social media posts describe physical altercations among people who have grown impatient and irritable from the long wait.
In other neighborhoods, such as Arroyo Naranjo, residents have set up makeshift camps outside butcher shops in hopes of getting a cut of meat. It is widely known that there is not enough for every household in the city to get its rationed share. Photos shared on social media show some people wrapped in blankets or drinking rum to keep warm in the cool early morning hours of December.
Silvia and her friends are seriously considering buying someone else’s place in line to speed up the wait time, which lasts a week. For 1,000 pesos they could reach the front by Thursday morning but they have to decide soon because prices for a good spot are expected to rise as Christmas Eve approaches.
Maria Eugenia has her doubts about making such an investment. Her son, who lives in Miami, has promised her a pork roast from Brazil, which can be purchased from any number of digital markets which markets to the island. “I don’t want him spending the money, which he needs for other things, but I cannot deal with this line anymore,” she says.
Meals at home are one option for those with relatives overseas. “A case of beer, a leg and sides for 250 dollars, with delivery [by December 24],” reads an advertisement published by a privately owned Havana business. When asked about the meat’s origin, the response by one employee is succinct: “Imported pork, nothing like the rationed stuff.”
Translated by Translating Cuba