Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Stations of the Cross of Self-Employment / Fernando Dámaso

The Stations of the Cross of Self-Employment / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Not so long ago self-employment began to materialize, in keeping with a
medieval list of approved occupations, and now dissatisfaction
proliferates among those who pinned their dwindling hopes on it. Among
the absurd regulations, improvised inspectors, and highway robbery
taxes, the only beneficiary is the State, leaving the citizen sunk in
misery, with barely enough to survive in precarious conditions.

The city, which in the early fifties had a modern network of stores, is
now filled with little kiosks, makeshift stalls in windows and doors,
tables in doorways and on sidewalks, the majority unsightly and lacking
minimum hygienic conditions (for food products). What's on offer is
pretty shabby, too commonly repetitious, without any kind of variety.
Everyone sells the same thing. It's as if there's been a time warp and
we landed in the Middle Ages.

Those who offer services and products in Tulipán Street, opposite the
mini-railroad station, to mention just one example, have to do so
outdoors, under the tropical sun and blocking pedestrian traffic.
Coexisting in a tight space are salesmen and saleswoman of shoes,
ornaments, jewelry, cleaning products, hardware, leather belts and
Santeria items (including pigeons and birds for sacrifice). Also people
who repair and fill cigarette lighters, manufacturers of pizzas,
sandwiches, sweets and soft drinks. A real tropical Tower of Babel.

The content of these businesses is at the discretion of the inspector
concerned, as there are no specific regulations in this regard. For
example, the manager of travel calls out loudly the in the parks the
destinations of taxis and buses, but he is not the one who organizes the
trips. An ambulatory seller of iced drinks must always be on the move
with his cart, and can't stop in any public place longer than the
appropriate inspector decides. It seems absurd but that's the reality of
everyday life in this country, where the authorities and officials have
become so bureaucratic they've lost the ability to think and reason.

I once wrote that self-employment was a forced fellow traveler, unwanted
by the regime, regardless of speeches and public declarations. In the
short duration of its exercise this has already been proven. There are
many today who are quick to turn in the licenses they once requested,
when they hoped something would begin to change. The harsh reality has
beaten them and, once again, proved that they were misled: there is
nothing more, here, than a game to gain time, without real intentions to
change anything. This is what those who marched on April 16 in the Plaza
and elsewhere in the country on May Day ratified.

May 14 2011


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