HAVANA TIMES, October 20 — Recently I was at one of three ATM’s in my municipality. That day it was the only one in service. For some unknown reason the other two were out of money.
As usual, the line was long (Cuba is the country of lines). Many older people had shown up to wait and collect their retirement money. Behind me an old woman marked her place in the long line, and — seeing how slowly it was moving — she began talking about how things were going in the country.
I listened intently to her comments, which began with how her retirement was only 200 pesos a month (about $8 USD).
“What can I do with 200 pesos?” the visibly infirm woman asked me – looking right in my face. “One hundred pesos go for powdered milk” she continued, “and the rest is for buying a little meat. But what about cooking oil? How am I supposed to buy oil?
She then started talking about the quality of our crusty bread, which costs 10 pesos for a larger bun. “You have to keep it in the refrigerator so that it stays firm, otherwise it’ll get all mushy. And the bananas they sell in the agro-market: Even though they’re rotting, they still don’t come down on the price. The same thing happens with all the merchandise.”
She was joined by another man who began talking about the “Russian days,” when they sold delicious buttered bread and when milk came in liters. He went on to describe how yogurt in several flavors was never missing, and how canned fruit (peaches, pears, apples…) cost 6 pesos a pound, whereas now fruit costs 10 to 20 pesos.
Back then the prices were reasonable and the quality excellent. But things have changed a lot – and not for the better. Today even sugar is scarce despite Cuba having always been a sugar-producing country. Now what they sell is expensive for many people.
I stood beside them, listening, not saying anything, just standing there silent, indicating a yes or a no with my head. I didn’t tell them that I too had some memories of those days, when elementary school students would spend great times at the Pioneer camp on Tarara Beach, which these days is no longer used for Pioneers.
Many of the few nice things about the ‘80s are now gone, but not forgotten.
After many years of supposed revolution, I don’t think much is being done for the people now.
That day as I stood there beside those old people, I could see myself in their same position several years from now, complaining about the same problems or even worse ones. But I said to myself, I have a little faith and some hope, because — like the saying goes — no evil lasts a hundred years.