Mirta, our interviewee (who is not the woman in the photo, taken from Flickr), is a 48-year-old housewife. She’s worried. She doesn’t know how to prepare herself for the black future that looms. The uncertainty, product of rumors on the street, have her exhausted. She doesn’t have any monetary resources in case of contingencies.
She thought her husband was exaggerating when he said that the state of public transportation had worsened. And she went to the state agricultural market at Diez de Octubre and Santa Catalina, and wasted a whole morning. Mostly in the lines, after waiting nearly two hours for a bus to return home. She spent 200 pesos (some 8 convertible pesos), more than half a month’s worth of her husband’s salary, and the food she bought won’t even last a week.
At the bus stop, and inside the new articulated buses, people repeated the same thing: “It’s bad and it’s going to get worse.” They say that in high schools in the countryside, the school year will end two weeks earlier than expected, due to lack of food for students. In the corridors they say a new special period is coming, a continuation of the one declared in the early 90s. And they predict it will be even more severe.
It’s not about the rumors in the street. At the table you can see how the situation has been deteriorating. The food outlets for roots, vegetables and greens have disappeared from the neighborhoods. Now we must go to the state agricultural markets, further away. This shift was to blame for Mirta losing half a day.
In the street they also speculate that China suspended exports and that it will not give more credit to Cuba, because Cuba doesn’t pay. To a deteriorating economy, we add the negative effects of the three cyclones that passed through the territory in 2008. All this, amid a global financial crisis.
According to “Radio Bemba” (“lip radio” or the Cuban rumor mill) less productive workplaces will be closed. And by government decree, food allocations for the workers’ lunchrooms have been diminished, because the State doesn’t have money to support these costs.
The comments travel by word of mouth and grow each day. When they have a large volume, the newspaper Granma, far from disproving or clarifying them, announces the return of the blackouts if the provinces do not reduce energy consumption.
So Mirta’s concerns grow. Her kitchen is modest, but she is anxiously thinking that the blackouts can damage any electrical equipment so painstakingly acquired. The special period brings up bad memories. She does not want to remember when she had to augment the rice with noodles or pieces of potato or pumpkin.
Mirta’s fears are the same as those of many Cubans. Very few have the resources to withstand the hardships ahead. Among the many bad omens, people wonder how long the a people will endure, anew, hunger and blackouts.
Photo: Mark in Cuba, Flickr.
Translated by: Julio de la Yncera