An Unforgettable Sunday

By Aurelio Pedroso  (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — The controversial government that puts goods for sale in hard currency stores in our capital city, declared in a solemn act of its governing board, without any kind of popular consensus, something like the Provincial Day of Diarrhea on Sunday May 7th this year.

If quite a few foreign bystanders, belonging to the category of those who have been innocently asking for years when people work in Cuba because they always see them cheerfully talking on street corners at any time of day, went out with their bottle of water in hand to stroll through the city and looked at what everyone else was carrying in their hands, they would have had a great surprise when they saw that many were carrying toilet paper.

Nobody, absolutely nobody, was just carrying a single packet, the one that only has 4 rolls. Our brilliant Sherlock Holmes, wearing a yarey palm leaf hat and Dr. Watson with his Industriales baseball cap, would be discussing how many people in the family of this man or woman were affected by this stomach virus as they were carrying a sealed package of 12 4-roll packets each.

Their tension headaches would only get worse when they finally find out that everyone in their families were well and healthy and weren’t suffering from stomach or digestive issues. The reason why they were carrying so much toilet paper is the inconsistent supply of the product, which has pushed everyone to carry out the (almost criminal) act of hoarding.

The same thing is happening nowadays with yogurt and the often disappearing sanitary napkins for menstruating women. [This would never be happening if women were the once making the purchases.]

Cuba imports toilet paper from Vietnam, a beloved and distant supplier which leads us to ask ourselves what is going on with our own raw material recovery sector [for making recycled toilet paper]. If anybody knows, please enlighten us.

This situation of irregular supplies is the “raw material” speculators need to reap their own harvest; first class blood for the black market’s veins and arteries in full-on mestastisis which is spreading throughout the country.

For those of you interested in history, this was one of the main causes for the fall of the Soviet Union and not the stunts that the man with a blood spot on his head pulled. What Gorbachev  inherited was nothing more, nor less, than 27% of the – then second world power – USSR’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in the hands of the comically dubbed “parallel economy”, which was and still is completely illegal.

4 thoughts on “An Unforgettable Sunday

  • The toilet paper always seems to be a problem in communist countries. It seems like an odd thing to not be able produce, but it must be more complex than these systems can manage.

  • Not only toilet paper, but 65% of all products people need in Cuba are not produced in the home country. No matter how much people can earn, it all leaves the country.

  • Anyone who has actually “handled” the toilet paper from Vietnam knows one thing for sure: it ain’t actually squeezing the Charmin. It’s as basic as it comes. A single-ply, thin as possible, 400-grit sandpaper facsimile. Whenever my wife and I visit her family in Guantanamo, we always bring our own.

  • Aurelio omits mentioning that the toilet paper from Vietnam is perilously narrow (the Vietnamese are in general much smaller than Cubans) and that in promoting communist humour, the name of the product is ‘Saigon’.
    The reason for importing toilet paper was either the long proven inability of the Cuban economy to produce sufficient paper pulp, or a method thought up by the Communist Party of Cuba to increase distribution of ‘Granma’ their official news organ.

    It was a boast of Fidel Castro on the 22nd April, 1959 that:

    “Cuba is capable of producing cotton, paper and newsprint.”

    But like most of his boasts and promises it remained unfulfilled and his comment along with a roll of ‘Saigon’ toilet paper deserves a place in the National Museum of Humour at San Antonio de Los Banos.

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