Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – The state-owned chain of hard-currency stores that sells some food items and drinks freely to the population, revealed its acute shortages on Christmas eve, while pork sellers (the only option on the private market) were charging up to 5 USD per kilogram. Only alcoholic drinks were widely available in both regular pesos and hard currency CUCs.
The range of products to roast for dinner, a family tradition in Cuba on Xmas eve, was limited and you could only find whole imported chickens and pork leg and shoulder. Mutton or goat’s meat, fish and seafood, as well as beef, were only accessible to people who could afford to pay (for example) 11 USD per kilo, a monthly pension more or less.
Keen to share with their family and friends, Cubans did everything they could, creating long lines to buy meat, joining others who crowded in front of places selling biscuits, sweets and jams.
Knowing that there were flour shortages to make our daily bread, Cubans turned their anxiety to packaged imported goods, such as the range that Nestle and other similar companies offer.
Beer and rum hogged most of retail sales on the eve of a celebration that only the repeated presence of three popes over the past 20 years, managed to rescue from the Castro brothers’ self-proclaimed atheism.
Some Christians, Catholics and different Protestant groups, agreed that the government has recognized Christmas, but is the only one who can sell us something to celebrate it with.
In Cuba’s case, the contradiction lies in the fact that as it is a secular state, religion is at the followers’ will, but the State also holds monopoly power over the market (both internal and external) so its actions still determine the Cuban people’s real possibilities.
In another long line in front of Western Union offices, waiting for much-needed remittances, you could hear things like: “It’s not surprising because they recognized Christmas after suppressing it for no reason whatsoever over 40 years, when they paralyzed the country with the pretext to produce 10 million tonnes of sugar which ended up being only 8 and a half.”
The world’s largest sugar producer once upon a time, Cuba barely produces a million tons per year nowadays, which is what is was producing a hundred years ago.
Confirming and adding to what the former said, others patiently waiting in the WU line, remembered: “This is how they took Havana’s Carnival away from us for two years, again for no reason, and even Three Kings’ Day which parents and children used to enjoy so much.”
Without having created the new society, the self-imposed and permanent totalitarian system which is now trying to eternalize itself in the new Constitution, erased hundred-year-old traditions using the pretext of an atheism that didn’t come with paradise on earth, like they had promised.
By 6:30 p.m. workers at the Carlos III shopping center were counting the till, in a hurry to get home. You could still buy some packaged food but lines had disappeared because of what you could make out on shelves from a distance away. There was still one or two people looking for beer. That was it.
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]