Having a camera is a marvel, it inspires me. Soon I will take it back to Yoani but I’ve gotten my two cents worth.
For example, when I was about to spend an hour cleaning the beans from the bodega (as shown in the photo) and started to curse, as is my custom every time I find an absurd amount of foreign objects in the grains, it inspired me.
I don’t know why the rationed products are called subsidized in the international media: with an average wage of 300 pesos, eggs cost 25, coffee 5, chocolate 10 and as for domestic appliances, I won’t mention it because it’s not worth it, with the price of a refrigerator alone. In my view we pay a price for these products consistent with our earnings (not the appliances, there are many people who can’t even buy a pot); some years ago they threatened to end the ration system, I believe they can’t.
In the case of those younger, the generation of those still work, everyone knows that we can’t live on our wages. This is a national principal: it’s not a living wage. That’s why the war against the black market and illegal acts is a failure from the start and the government knows it. However, the Cuban population is old, and every year it becomes older, the birth rate is flat and the productive sector flees in all directions towards a more promising exile.
When you’re sixty you can’t run around the streets with a bag of fish to sell, ready to take off running at the first sign of danger, or walk ten kilometers with 30 pounds of yogurt on your back. From the ostracism of the Cuban retiree it’s not possible to steal from the state, or spend four hours cleaning the houses of those who have money, or spend the day in front of a hot stove making pizzas. Although there are some who, unfortunately, are obliged to do so, and incredibly they manage, like the gentleman who sells food at my house, who’s 75 years old and has Parkinson’s disease. It’s really saddening to see him pick up the bread while he has no control over his hands.
What do they have left? To eat the inadequate food from the soup kitchens. Believe me, I had one in my house, it’s disgusting and costs about six pesos for a full plate. And then to sell their quota from the ration: the pasta, the rice, the beans, etc… despite the terrible cruelty of the police who, for example, in O’Reilly Street in Old Havana, don’t hesitate to bring charges against a group of octogenarians and seize 5 tubes of toothpaste, 4 boxes of Tinanic cigars, or 3 boxes of matches.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.