Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shelves of Misery

Shelves of Misery / Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on February 26, 2014

The old Carlos III market was transformed into a "mall." At the
beginning, Havanans found a wide selection of merchandise (in CUC — hard
currency); today the showcases are empty.

The shelves where the most common ingredients should be found often
appear empty or offer only one product of its type without options of
quality or size. Those foods that Cubans eat the most are exhausted
rapidly, sometimes missing from the shelves for weeks. On the other
hand, the most expensive foods stay for sale for so long that many wind
up expiring.

Not to mention the toiletry section. This week there was only one kind
of soap for sale, a small bar for 0.25 CUC. The counter where there used
to appear dozens of offers for varying budgets now presents a desolate

Another features of the supermarket is the disorganization. It is no
surprise that at midday the aisles are full of boxes, piled one on top
of the other. "Don't touch" has been scrawled on them by the
establishment's clerks, who also work as stockers and have neither time
nor intention for assisting customers. The boxes that have been empty
for hours still wait for someone to retrieve them.

That same disorder is expressed in that the supermarket's departments
have been inconveniently separated: on one side, the meat and dairy
where the rotten odor is unbearable, and there are only two types of
cheese. There a Cuban resident of Spain visiting the Island comments to
this reporter that she has brought all her food from abroad for her
stay, and that she is in the place just to buy something for a friend.
"I don't like the quality here," she confesses is the motive. On the
other side is the preserves department as in other stores where packets
of coffee or cookies can be obtained. The products may repeat from one
department to another.

The lack of sanitation is also seen in the dust on the bottles of wine
in the liquor section, one of the most Cuban products offered. The main
current suppliers for the shelves of Plaza Carlos III are the Spanish
brands Gourmet or Spar, food of national production has almost disappeared.

In this atmosphere, when a humble and fortunate customer in the end has
found what he needs, he must confront a long line to pay because one of
the two cash registers never works. The difficult mission of obtaining
food ends when, at the exit, a character sometimes not in uniform and
with a very bad look on his face treats the clients like criminals,
being able to search bags shamelessly.

This process is not applied to foreigner who visit the store. This is
done to remind Cubans that, as miserable as the shelves of the
supermarket are, also miserable is the spirit that the regime has developed.

Cubanet, February 25, 2014 / Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Translated by mlk.

Source: Shelves of Misery / Victor Ariel Gonzalez | Translating Cuba -

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