Thursday, February 4, 2010


When I was a kid the store at 23rd and 10th no longer called itself the “Ten Cent,” but I can’t tell you what its name was because everyone continued, as they do to this day, calling it that.  Meanwhile, while I was growing up the Ten Cent changed its name several times and was also remodeled.

I remember, now, a story of Virgilio Piñera’s where he talked about the breakfasts; that was the era when there was a red bar on the left side of this enormous place, and you could have lunch at little tables, like in a restaurant.  I can still recall how sad my mother was when they demolished it.

It’s natural for places to modernize, update their style and revitalize their sales, but what happened to the Ten Cent – lately named Varieties – has been the exact opposite.  It seemed to enjoy a small boom at the end of the nineties, when the government decided to issue some licenses for private sellers, and 23rd and 10th was full of craftsmen and furniture sellers.  This was short-lived, however, as the private initiative seemed to generate too much happiness in a people supposedly inspired by the tropical version of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

When the world moved on to the 21st century, this establishment moved back in time, though the constant remodels and changes in the sales departments were useless and the shelves were increasingly empty.  The store that had offered, in national pesos, most staple products wasn’t even a distant memory, so much so that the reputation of "bare shelves" stuck more than all the other nicknames from before.

On Monday, January 25 – after another renovation – the store reopened.  With a new presence and a greater variety of products, the line to get in was enormous.  One detail has been kept, everything is sold in national currency… although the prices have changed.  A jar of mango marmalade, for example, costs 200 Cuban pesos, or 10 CUCs more or less.  What kind of salary allows for these luxuries?  The majority of professionals know that marmalade is not for us.

I am posting here a video of Ciro who has made a few homemade jams since he saw the big can on the shelves.

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