Havana Amid Shrieks, Uneasiness and Hoarding

By Esther Zoza

Crowds in Havana have been common place when some needed product appears for sale.

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.

3 thoughts on “Havana Amid Shrieks, Uneasiness and Hoarding

  • May 15, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    You are so right so many groups from Canada and other countries went after the Russian pullout. The mismanagement and theft by the Cuban government is a bigger part of the problem than the U.S. trade restrictions.

  • May 14, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Yours Dan is an excellent and accurate comment!

  • May 14, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    As sad as it makes me to think of the return of Special Period type hardship on the Cuban people, it’s important to note that Trump and his spiteful measures are only about 1/2 the problem–if we have to quantify it. The other half being the twisted management of a society where access to basic goods is controlled by the state. It’s hard, after 60 years, to say which is the root cause–the management of Cuba by its own government, or the imposition of restrictions on Cuba by the US government. Clearly, both are causes of the problems. Further, if the US would ease up on Cuba incrementally, as Obama had started to do, then the Cuban government would have a harder time blaming the US for their own sadistic and twisted management style of governing–one that forces its own beautiful people to spend their existence seeking basic goods, instead of contributing to the growth and well-being of a thriving society.

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