It is evident that Cubans in most parts and economic strata are struggling. Save for the elites with government connections or those blessed with artistic talent, every day for a Cuban means each is like a quartermaster who must take into consideration hundreds of factors for intake and use. It must be even more demoralizing and damning when one steps outside to view the pleasant and fecund landscape that basic commodities such as fruits and vegetables are often out of reach for the typical household. I asked Amanda, the owner of the 𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘳 in which I stayed in Holguín, what could account for such a disconnection and she waved one hand and vaguely alluded to outside factors.
“You mean the blockade?” I said, noticing her embarrassment at bringing it up.
“Yes, the blockade”
“But look at the mild weather here and how everything grows so well”
“It’s that there is less and less land on which to grow things,” she replied.
“What about corruption?”
“Well, that too.”
“So what is in Cuba’s future?”
“The salaries have increased somewhat but everyday costs keep going up…” and she trailed off, disillusioned.
I did not press her for any more background. When I heard the cries of a vendor coming down the street, then saw his pushcart laden with fruits and vegetables, I signaled to him to stop and went down to buy some things for the day trip to the beach. For a bunch of about 12 finger bananas and two medium-sized pineapples I paid CUP 1,300 – about USD 10. Now $10 may not seem like much for someone like me for such fresh fruits, but for a Cuban making just $150 a month, it is an impossible burden. And, of course, determining the cost of anything here requires one to factor in all the hassles of waiting in lines and for items that are scarce or in effect nonexistent; the money of most non-Cubans and certainly of the average tourist is hassle-free. I gave the vendor CUP 1,500 and didn’t ask for change, nor did he offer such.
After breakfast, as I waited for Pablo and his antique Chevy Hudson, I was successful in befriending the local stray cat, who briefly allowed me to pet her and I thought of my family and cats back home.