By Esther Zoza
HAVANA TIMES – Running into crowds at stores and markets is becoming common in Cuba’s capital city. Desperate people hoard: eggs/ rice/ soap/ detergent/ toothpaste and some products that might seem absurd at a glance. It’s worth remembering that these people are my people…
When I heard about a crowd that had formed on the corner of Monte and Angeles streets, I went in a flash. Three police patrol cars were parked on the street, in front of the store (to provide a swift response to any incident that might occur). The crowd wasn’t normal. Eggs immediately came to mind: which calm our rumbling stomachs. But no, it wasn’t eggs. It was bleach.
This might not seem to make any sense to anyone abroad, but… Bleach is one of the most safe-guarded treasures in homes where there are old people, children, bedsheets and towels to wash. As well as being an essential in a city where garbage grows by the day and spills outside of dumpsters. Getting a hold of enough bleach in this case is an indicator of what the Cuban people are going through.
It’s natural for people to be worried with Trump’s new temper tantrums. If any good came out of the Special Period, it was the ability to overcome hardship. Many of us learned how to make soap, candles, to eat minced banana, and even grapefruit steak.
But, are our new generations able to collect bits of soap and eat a flower salad? I believe they are. We carry the ability to grow in the face of hardship in our DNA. Canarian, Spanish and African grandparents and great-grandparents are proof of this. Our ancestors didn’t eat on porcelain plates.
A lot of speculation fills Havana’s streets: Will blackouts return? Will we go back to sitting on the pavement at night, and sleep in doorways to cool down a little? Those who are worrying the most are getting out their old candle-making molds. Those who are in a better financial situation are hunting down rechargeable lanterns. Others are begging their relatives abroad for batteries.
It’s likely that we experience hard times like we did back in the ‘90s. But, it’s also likely that Cubans use the best of themselves to navigate old Trump’s temper tantrums. If there’s one thing I can assure you, it’s that Cubans will be as clean and nice-smelling as they always are, even if they have to bathe in the river and distill perfume themselves from flowers.