Price Reductions? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 April 2016 — I have a friend who, as soon as she heard about the announced price cuts, ran out the day before to the hard currency stores to buy things, thinking she might store some of the items about to go on sale before the stores run out of them. A big mistake, a repeat of the sixties, that never worked.

On the other hand, someone being interviewed on State television (the only TV that exists in our country), told the cameras that he felt as if he had gotten a wage increase. Does this man, perhaps, receive his wages in hard currency, Cuban convertible pesos (CUC)? Continue reading “Price Reductions? / Rebeca Monzo”

Here wages, like pensions, are paid out in Cuban pesos (CUP) and are barely enough to survive. This poor man seems to have the idea that the majority of the products lowered their prices by some 50 or 40 centavos in CUCs, along with some few products sold in CUPs, which are insignificant because they sell them to the population at inflated prices and, in addition, it takes 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) to equal one Cuban convertible peso (CUC).

In my view this has been nothing more than a distraction to try to overshadow the disenchantment people are feeling after the 7th Party Congress, where the few naive who still had hope lost it when the “phantom of the opera” (Fidel Castro) reappeared, and said “Here, I am the boss.” This insignificant reduction in prices could also be a little trap, to cheer up the “sheep” who are going to march in the big parade on May Day.

Gentlemen, everything remains the same or worse, and the clearest evidence of this is the continuous and uninterrupted exodus of Cubans to other countries, hoping to use them as a bridge to get to the destination that is everyone’s ultimate dream: The United States.

Confrontation Between Cubans / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 16 April 2016 — The government of Cuba classifies the Bay of Pigs as “the first defeat of imperialism in America”; this is a fallacy. The Bay of Pigs (or Playa Girón as it is called in Cuba), was merely a confrontation between Cubans that never should have happened.

A friend, who was married to one of the pilots who fought at the Bay of Pigs, told me that the father of her children, after a few years, disenchanted and irritated by the political situation that our country was being subjected to, decided to resign his post and leave for the United States, establishing himself in Miami. There he was reunited with former compañeros who had also deserted, and they begin meeting with and Continue reading “Confrontation Between Cubans / Rebeca Monzo”

sharing friendly exchanges with some of those other pilots against whom they had fought years earlier, but above all Cubans, feeling their hearts beating for the same homeland, forgetting the differences that had separated them.

One night, at one of the now common dinners where they exchanged experiences, they were all seated at the same table, sharing rich Island food, the pilot of my tory excused himself to go to the bathroom. Moments later, a loud noise was heard, which made the host run to the bathroom and he found his friend there, lying on the floor. Solicitously, he held him in his arms, just moments before he died.

Many years of confrontations, disagreements, misunderstandings and smear campaigns orchestrated by the regime on the island had to pass, so that finally two Cubans who never should have been converted into enemies, were forever united in an embrace.

Who Should Be Apologizing? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 24 March 2016 — No sooner had Air Force One taken off for Buenos Aires from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana with President Barack Obama, his family and entourage onboard than Cuban media began broadcasting distorted commentary by a twisted and pretentious Roundtable, which tried to undermine the excellent speech Obama had given at the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro.

Terrified by the impact of the president’s words, which even in a specially chosen auditorium generated unauthorized applause, the local press began calling into question the spot-on and convincing arguments Obama put forth, especially those dealing with civil society. Among other trivialities, they claimed the president of the United States should have apologized to the people of Cuba for the victims of Barbados.*

Perhaps it is the Cuban government which should be apologizing to its own people for the religious and ideological persecutions we have suffered for decades. Or for the concentration camps run by the Military Units to Aid Production. Or for the victims of the sinking of the “March 13” tugboat in which three adolescents were shot and killed for trying to commandeer a launchboat without hurting anyone. Or for the thousands and thousands of people who have perished trying to cross the Florida Straits in rickety rafts, fleeing a regime responsible for unjust arrrests following the 2003 Black Spring and for weekly Sunday assaults on members of the Ladies in White.

Please, let’s turn the page, as President Obama asked Raul to do, and look towards the present and the future, not to the past. That is the only way to break out of the economic, political and social morass in which we have been stuck for more than half a century.

* Translator’s note: In 1976 a Cuban exile and former CIA agent planted a bomb aboard a civilian Cuban airliner, which blew up over Barbados, killing all seventy-three persons onboard.

What Are You Complaining About? / Rebeca Monzo

Trash piles up next to a destroyed street tree in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood

Rebeca Monzo, 7 March 2016 — Many citizens complain about events such as these: President Obama’s visit, the Rolling Stones concert, the Chanel fashion show on the Paseo del Prado, international sporting events and others. They often take them as a show of support for the regime, and not as an opening that, despite the government’s intransigence, forces them to “open themselves to the world,” as Pope John Paul said, although against the opinions of many leaders, including Raul himself, who fear these openings because they know very well that they are cracks, which will widen more and more, and which will cause the absolute control they are accustomed to exercising over the population to slip from their hands. Continue reading “What Are You Complaining About? / Rebeca Monzo”

The positive side of all this is, to my way of thinking, that they are forced to undertake restoration and maintenance work that has been ignored for five decades in favor of prioritizing political proselytizing and the export of ideology. All this will ultimately bring benefits to the people, and the increasing arrival of foreigners, despite the lack of infrastructure and sanitary problems of every kind that face the city in trying to receive them.

Ultimately, they have no alternative but to undertake public works to improve transport, hygiene and the sanitation of the whole city, which benefits not only the foreign visitors but the entire citizenry in one way or another, because they are alarmed by the “importation” of Zika to our island the fall of tourism and the chance for foreign investment. Thinking of the positive side of these events and not that they are not being realized in the way we as an incipient civil society aspire to, unrecognized by the regime.

This is something like the fight against dengue fever. If we try to liquidate the mosquito only by burning oil, as they have done until now, over almost forty years, we are only going to ensure that it becomes endemic.

It is Hospital Joaquin Albarran’s Turn / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 4 March 2016 — About a month ago, in order to change the direction of the Joaquin Albarran Clinical Surgical Hospital, located on 26th Avenue at Avenue of Independence (Boyeros), a Commission of the Ministry of Public Health, composed of 35 specialists in different areas of public health, undertook a thorough inspection of this institution.

The results, of course, were as expected, for years, by the patients coming to this hospital: rooms with ceilings and woodwork in a total state of disrepair, filthy floors, walls and toilets, leaks in the bathrooms and an absence of hardware, buckets and containers with stored water and other disgraces. Continue reading “It is Hospital Joaquin Albarran’s Turn / Rebeca Monzo”

Of the six elevators in the hospital, usually only one is working, and it takes the sick and surgical patients up and the dead and garbage down, carrying food, patients and visitors.

The balustrades and handrails on the stairs can be scraped with a knife and a centimeter of grime can be dug out, incrusted by time and lack of hygiene. One more piece of evidence that doctors and staff called attention to was, on asking them to wash their hands as was common, they then applied a spray that was found to be full of bacteria.

I was told all this by a surgeon who worked for years in this institution, whose name I withhold so as not to cause him problems. He also told me that the hospital lacks pulmonologists and has barely enough anesthesiologists.

As a result of this exhaustive inspection, the departments of nephrology and psychiatry were closed due to their great state of unhealthiness and deterioration.

A friend, who recently had to use this hospital for emergency surgery, told me she had to climb the stairs, with great effort given her severe pain, because the only elevator usually working was broken that day. She added that, when she came out of surgery a doctor seeing her exclaimed, “Wow! The patients are now using the stairs!”

Making a Piece of Patchwork Art / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo working on a piece of patchwork.

Rebeca Monzo, 23 February 2016 — The first steps to creating a piece of patchwork:

Choose the work to be done and draw it on a piece of paper of the desired size.

With a raw canvas as background and assemble the different pieces of fabric.

Choose and have at hand the different kinds of fabric and thread, according to the work you are going to make. Continue reading “Making a Piece of Patchwork Art / Rebeca Monzo”

Cut the different pieces of fabric (like a puzzle) and lay them on the canvas.

Once all the pieces are placed, baste them with short stitches to keep them in place.

Cut all the well-aligned edges of the work and wax them to avoid them fraying as your work the piece.

Unite all the different little pieces with your chosen stitch.

When you have finished decorate it with ribbons and beads according to the chosen work.

With this technique you can also make tapestries, belts, necklaces, pillows, quilts and many other articles.

Any work done by hand has great value today.

If you want to ask me any questions about this you can communicate with me through rebecaparche@gmail.com.

Dying is Nothing, the Worst Comes After / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 20 February 2016 — At the beginning of 1959 there were fewer than a million inhabitants of Havana and around 11 funeral homes. Today, in the same area, where the population has doubled, there are only 7 funeral homes.

Right now, we have an aging population, there are many deaths every day, and the limited number of funeral homes still open, most of them shabby and without proper maintenance and equipment, are in a state of collapse.

The National Funeral Home, on Calzada de Infanta, has been closed for six months; the San Jose, at Infanta and Carlos III, was converted into an art gallery some years ago; the Caballero, at 23rd and M in El Vedado, was first turned into a ridiculous Tea House and then was handed over to Continue reading “Dying is Nothing, the Worst Comes After / Rebeca Monzo”

the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; and the Alfredo Fernandez, another property owned by the Chibas family, also in El Vedado, is now a tenement where many families life in precarious conditions.

It is lamentable that family members, after having to deal with the hardships that come with having a loved one admitted to our hospital facilities, many of which lack hygiene and even medications, have to confront the disagreeable and endless procedures involved in holding a funeral, burial or cremation, with a minimum of respect for the deceased.

Lately there have been terrible cases where, for lack of capacity in the funeral homes, the funerals have to be held in homes, a custom that disappeared more than half a century ago in our capital. In addition some families have found it necessary to place an urgent order for a privately made coffin, because the state workshops do not produce enough of them.

The same thing is happening with the now so fashionable cremation; you have to wait two or three days after the death for your turn, unless some money changes hands (under the table) to get the funeral home to speed it up.

Also, due to lack of vehicles to transport the dead to Guanabacoa, the city’s closest crematorium, no one knows exactly what time or when the body will be sent there.

This breakdown in funeral services, which is a part of the breakdown of all services in our country, makes families doubt that the ashes they receive are really those of their deceased family member, as they are delivered by way of the funeral home two or three days later, while the crematorium is only running three turns a day.

This absurd reality, typical of most black himor, reminds us of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s great vision of the future in his films “The Death of a Bureaucrat” (1966), and “Guantanamera” (1994). Without a shadow of a doubt, dying in Cuba isn’t the problem, it is what happens after.

Also Problems Post Mortem / Rebeca Monzo

Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana
Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana

Rebeca Monzo, 1 February 2016 — As if there weren’t enough problems surviving in this country, even after death you continue to confront problems, only they fall on the friends and family members of the deceased. Hence, that old and well-known phrase, “The dead to the hole and the living to the chicken [i.e. dinner table]” no longer applies.

This is a country with an aging population, and as a consequence, deaths are frequent. Recently there have been several deaths in the area when I live, some of which I can comment on as a witness. The saddest of all was a great friend from my childhood who, given her personal characteristics and physical condition, her death was unthinkable.

This friend appeared to be having a stroke so she was immediately admitted to the hospital closest to her home, El Fajardo. She was put in intensive care where she spent several days on an artificial respirator. When she died on January 26th, complicating the original diagnosis was a bacterial infection she acquired after she was admitted. Continue reading “Also Problems Post Mortem / Rebeca Monzo”

The hospital made the necessary arrangements for the wake, but there were no funeral homes available in the Plaza district, where she lived. Some were closed because they were undergoing repairs, and others, like the National, for being in very poor condition.

Finally, with a little greasing of palms, they managed to find one at Zapata and Paseo Streets, where the family could hold the wake while waiting her turn to be cremated, which they were warned could take two or three days. So, using the same “persuasive methods,” they managed to schedule it for that night. Everything now depended on whether they could get the only vehicle available to move the coffin to Guanabacoa, where the crematorium is.

Her family members were told that in two days, maximum, they would get a call from the funeral home to collect the ashes. One of the granddaughters, now desperate, commented to me, “Seeing how badly things work here, who can assure me that when they are delivered they will really be the ashes of my grandmother.”

“May God rest her soul,” I told her. I was the only consolation I could give her.

El Nino and the Old Man / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, Havana, 23 January 2016 — Here on my planet Cuba, the lack of products in the food markets, the shortages in the stores selling in the badly named “national currency,” as well as in the stores called “Hard Currency Collection Stores, the collapse of the buildings in poor conditions and without maintenance for so many years, the clogging of sewers and drains, the piles of trash not collected on time and its being washed away by the downpours, with the resulting flooding, the salaries and pensions that barely stretch to cover the most precarious needs of the individual, are all disasters blamed on imperialism and now, more recently, the El Niño phenomenon.

It is true that this weather phenomenon has brought grave consequences to many countries, where there are poor people living in precarious housing. But it is no less true that in cities like Havana, where the urban design and architectures are still sources of admiration for much of the developed world, all these consequences we are suffering today, are not only due to the antics of “The Little Boy,” but to the bad administration and indifference of the Old Man.

While the decadent old system continues on without taking the essential measures to better maintain the streets, sewers and housing, there is a National Assembly of People’s Power that can’t do anything and a government on the island that continues on entrenched in its obsolete ideas, without fostering the essential political, economic and social changes. As long as this continues the Cuban people will continue to suffer the ravages and consequences of these two phenomena: climate and governance.

New Year’s Eve Fatalities / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 29 December 2015 — We are now almost at the end 2015 and outside one can detect a distinctive feeling of sadness. People wander the streets, going from poorly stocked farmers markets to stores in their daily search for food. If they cross your path and you wish them a “Merry Christmas,” not only do they not return the greeting, they look at you stunned, as though you were an extra-terrestrial.

Very few hard currency stores are decorated with lights or Christmas trees. The others — the ones that price goods in the misnamed Cuban peso, a currency that is almost worthless but the one in which salaries and pensions are paid — do not even carry normal every-day light bulbs. Their shelves are either unabashedly empty or are filled with the same product. Their display windows are broken and grime covers the floors and glass.

There is no media coverage of traditional celebrations, only stories about the latest anniversary of the triumph of a revolution, which from the beginning was already showing signs of what it would ultimately become: a complete failure.

Never has the Cuban family been so divided and dispersed as it is now. Christmas Eve passed without notice. The streets were as deserted and dark as usual, and there were none of those enticing aromas of yesteryear wafting from neighborhood kitchens that gave hints of a pleasant meal to come.

If this is the socialism the government says it wants to “perfect,” may God help us!

A Year Later and Almost Nothing / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 18 December 2015 — Yesterday, December 17, marked the one-year anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba.

In my earlier post I noted that, when this event occurred, it unleashed many feelings, ranging from joy to apprehension. It quickly became obvious that there were two emotions in particular that Cubans were experiencing quite keenly. On the one hand, there was great hope at the prospect of major changes so long desired by the vast majority of Cubans both inside and outside the country. On the other hand, there was the fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act, presumably now irrelevant, would be repealed. Continue reading “A Year Later and Almost Nothing / Rebeca Monzo”

This latter concern led to the massive exodus of Cubans to any Latin American country they felt might serve as a trampoline to vault them to the United States, as well as the flight of the “lucky ones,” who could go to the U.S. directly. Rather than implement urgent changes necessary in a country mired in a full-blown social, economic and political crisis, an intransigent Cuban government has instead obstinately made ridiculous demands, which have only succeeded in stalling the negotiations, in an effort to buy time.

It is obvious that, at least so far, it is the Obama administration that has initiated all the efforts aimed at improving relations. Meanwhile, Raul has insisted on reparations that he knows full well will not be paid — brandishing them like symbols of a highly questionable national sovereignty and independence — while using and forcing Cuban media to adopt accusatory, obsolete and undiplomatic language when referring to the United States.

Unless this changes, we will continue experiencing economic, political and social stagnation, which — along with the crises facing the Maduro government and the Latin American left — only threaten to get worse.

The only positive images in our minds and on our retinas have undoubtedly been the raising of the flag at the American embassy in Havana and the raising of our flag in Washington.

The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 November 2015 — Some days from now it will be the first anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, but the great expectations awoken by the desired event seem to have fallen into uncertainty and stagnation.

The vast majority of Cubans believed they saw on this event the potential for great improvements in every sense, but disappointment soon invaded all of us on seeing that the island’s government had not taken a single measure to indicate good faith and the desire to realize the changes so greatly longed for.

The fact that they authorized travel for all Cubans and have streamlined the paperwork is nothing new, nor is the authorization to buy and sell homes and cars. These are not government handouts, but simply a restoring of citizens’ rights usurped 56 years ago by the regime itself. Continue reading “The First Anniversary of a Truncated Hope / Rebeca Monzo”

Government immobility has led to a new stampede of Cubans abroad, using every kind of means to escape from a regime in which nobody believes or has any confidence.

Moreover, while thousands of compatriots abandon the country that is totally bankrupt, selling all their property and belongings in order to finance the path to a new dream, the influx of tourists to the island grows as never before, surprising given that the country does not have adequate infrastructure to receive them.

Shortages in the markets and hard currency stores, the sporadic disappearance of basic goods like mineral water, soft drinks and beer, the bad state of the streets and highways, the unhealthy atmosphere in a city where garbage collection is inadequate, the outbreaks of dengue fever and cholera in the capital and other provinces, make me question what motivates this great arrival of foreigners, among whom we find stars of the screen, the stage and music.

Could it be they want to visit this great Caribbean Jurassic Park before the oldest and sickest of its dinosaurs, still breathing, cease to exist? Only time will have the last word.

Is There a Cuban Style? / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 13 November 2015 — As I see it, it would be incorrect to claim there is a Cuban style. During the last fifty years Cuban men and women on the island have been dressing any way they can with whatever was sent to them by overseas relatives, by repurposing old clothes or, in recent years, with contributions by those who had the opportunity to travel and brought back clothing of low-quality for resale. Until now, the only major points of reference on which Cubans could rely for their so-called fashion sense have been popular video clips and TV soap operas, most of them Brazilian. Continue reading “Is There a Cuban Style? / Rebeca Monzo”

It is very difficult to be a fashion leader if you do not have a strong economy and great designers, or a textile industry and light manufacturing to provide everything necessary for its creation. That is why fashion has always been dictated from the great capitals of the world, Paris being the prime example. It is the public itself that ultimately determines what fashion is by adapting it, using it and broadening its appeal. Everything else is determined by fashion trends, adaptations to climate, social status and the infrastructure of individual countries. It should be noted that there are iconic pieces, such as the Cuban guayabera, the Panama hat and the Mexican shawl, to name a few, but by themselves they do not constitute fashion.

A very interesting and commendable recent development in this country has been the first Artisan Fashion Week, which serves a prelude and kick-off to the famous annual FIART fair. It has become essential to set a benchmark on what constitutes proper dress. With the disappearance of fashion magazines as well as related institutions decades ago, there has been a lack of information, and the mass media has not provided good examples to follow.

The only hint that there might be such as thing as Cuban fashion came when La Maison created some fabulous and very tasteful pieces inspired by the guayabera and Creole buttons. Another key moment was the appearance of those famous Telarte fabrics, created by some of our country’s best designers. Their life was, however, as fleeting as that of a butterfly. At the time there were some hard currency stores that carried these creations but the population of Cuba was denied access to them, along with the use of that particular type of currency.

Historically speaking, we should note that the most important changes in women’s fashion internationally coincided with big, earth-shattering events. During World War I, women found themselves taking on jobs formerly held by men, who were at the front. One of the big changes in women’s lives was a new wardrobe more appropriate to their new social role. This meant abandoning uncomfortable undergarments such as corsets, which limited their movements, and adopting shorter skirts and looser hip-length blouses. Later came boyish haircuts and the use of cigarettes holders for smoking, which women felt they had gained the right to do in public. With these changes came economic independence and self-determination.

As a result, certain iconic items altered the landscape of fashion: extended waists, long strings of pearls, reed-like cigarette holders and short shirts that exposed legs covered by sheer flesh-colored silk stockings. These were the hallmarks of an elegant woman of the 1920s.

Two styles of dress conquered the fashion world, took root and remain popular today: the tailored suit and casual wear. The first — made from a myriad of materials, including thin, soft wools for daytime and beautiful lamé fabrics for night — was one of the major contributions by Coco Chanel. Casual wear resulted mainly from the great boom in sports and thrilling sporting events, which women attended both as spectators and to show off.

The difficult years of World War II saw widespread rationing. Fabric, an essential commodity, was one of the hardest hit. Skirts ended just below the knees to save on fabric.

The widespread use of the uniform for women in critical jobs, both in the army and in factories, affected the way they dress. Nevertheless, the great couturiers never stopped responding to new requirements by offering new solutions. In 1947 there was a radical and dramatic change in appearance of a woman’s waistline. It became more refined as skirts became a little longer, giving them a beautiful fullness, which had been missing for many years. One of the most prominent designers of this period was undoubtedly Christian Dior, until then virtually ignored.

Until the 1950s, Cuba served as a model of female beauty and elegance. So renowned were Cuban women for these qualities that, when they travelled overseas or moved to foreign countries, women such as the Countess of Merlin dazzled the royal courts of Europe with their refinement. This was due in large measure to the number of designers and fashion houses in the Cuban capital. One of the most internationally renowned and recognized of these designers was Cuba’s Ismael Bernabeau, to whom this article pays homage.

The Stampede Continues / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 20 November 2015  — One year after initiating conversations to reestablish relations with the U.S., the Cuban Government continues its immobile posture, without taking a step forward.

The raised expectations, with which the immense majority of the Cuban population gave itself illusions, have stagnated, and the stampede of Cubans, most of them young, continues making news in all the foreign newspapers.

A new Mariel Boatlift, but this time by land, is happening. So far this year, the alarming number of national emigrants by different routes and countries, with Miami the final destination, has risen to 43,169, surpassing the massive emigration of 1994. Continue reading “The Stampede Continues / Rebeca Monzo”

The loss of faith in the Cuban Government and the lack of those so-awaited changes have caused a large part of the Cuban people to opt for escape, in search of a better future for them and their families, in other latitudes. Even people who have the privilege of working in successful private establishments, like some private restaurants, realized that the options of expanding and becoming independent, and offering a better education to their children, were each time more unreachable.

Others, still clinging to what they call “change,” for lack of knowledge — for example, being able to travel, buy a car or an apartment, or sell their house —  ignore that these so-called changes are nothing more than the return of some rights usurped by their own government, for which they don’t need to be so grateful.

While a real opening isn’t happening and the Government continues clinging and demanding nothing intelligent, and continues paying wages of poverty to professionals and preventing them from having their own business, everything will continue the same.

This makes me think that really they don’t want change that would make their ancient governmental structure totter, or the irremediable loss of power, which would cause the failure of their politics to be discovered.

As long as the higher-ups don’t have the courage to renounce and admit their own errors, and continue to entrench themselves behind demands and absurd accusations directed at our neighbor to the north, the migratory stampede will be unstoppable.

Translated by Regina Anavy

If You Don’t Want to Be Embargoed, Don’t Ship / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 9 November 2015 — While preparing for my departure from Miami, a friend suggested I ship part of my luggage by sea to lighten my load and the custom duties. To do this, we turned to an agency advertised on local TV.

The staff at the company, Tu Envío a Cuba (Your Shipment to Cuba) was very attentive and professional, which made us feel this was a reliable alternative. They assured us the packages would arrive in Cuba within twenty-three days or less, which further encouraged me to choose this option. What was never mentioned was how the process would play out once the shipment arrived in the country. Continue reading “If You Don’t Want to Be Embargoed, Don’t Ship / Rebeca Monzo”

Sometime after the estimated time of arrival, I decided to call the offices here in Havana. After countless attempts over several days, I managed to get in touch with the information department, which provided me with the long-awaited answer. I was told my package had in fact arrived on October 18 at 2:30 pm (on the scheduled date no less), and I was even provided with a confirmation number. But when I insisted on details about the delivery date, they responded categorically that the shipping container in which my package arrived was at the port of Mariel and that I would have to wait three months due to shortages of trucks and manpower.

I decided to look into the matter further and discovered that one company, Almacenes Universal (Universal Warehouses), controls transportation and distribution of all merchandise, both state and private sector, throughout the island. Though the company has a fleet of vehicles at its disposal, they have never been fully operational. Many of its trucks are broken or in repair shops, hence all the delays now being experienced in delivering what are in many cases essential supplies to commercial and manufacturing enterprises.

Therefore, as one might expect, those of us who decide to ship some of our luggage by sea have to sit and wait patiently since we are not among the government’s priorities.

What is even worse is that the company to which we as travelers entrust our personal possessions does not warn us of these problems before taking our orders and collecting our money, as logic would dictate.

In my particular case, I can afford to wait, though this is neither the best nor the desired outcome. Unfortunately, however, this situation also impacts supplies of pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, mineral water and many other essential products, leading to regular shortages at pharmacies that affect the entire population.