14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 2 September 2023 — “Don’t charge her!” was the cry that ran through the line this Saturday morning at Parque Trillo in Central Havana. The customers of an impromptu agricultural products fair asked one of the vendors to give a banana to an old woman who, after lining up, had verified that she did not have enough money to even take one banana home. “I’m not going to charge her, but I will charge you,” the clerk responded to a young man with a sneer.
On the sidewalk, scattered on the grass and with the earth still clinging to the skins, the food offered at the fair has risen in price like the rest of the food in Cuba. The fairs that were once the option for the poorest now have a pound of malanga at 55 pesos, plantains at 35 pesos and a head of garlic, with very small cloves, at 20 pesos each. If a customer wants to take home a can of tomato sauce, she will have to pay 650 pesos.
“Before, you filled up your bags at these fairs but now it’s crazy how expensive everything is,” lamented a man who saw the trucks arrive early and thought he could make a fairly complete purchase. “In the end, I only decided on one guava bar at 160 pesos, because food is through the roof,” he laments. “There isn’t much variety either, the fair is quite poor.”
The usual buyers of these open-air markets, organized mainly with merchandise from cooperatives and state farms, are retirees, families with very low resources and also mischievous resellers who buy at cheaper prices and then offer the products on private stands or carts. . But inflation has dampened enthusiasm and curtailed the number of takers.
“It’s not worth coming from afar to see what they have,” complained a woman who walked from the municipality of Cerro to “be one of the first in line” when the trucks unloaded their merchandise. The lady herself listed all the foods that are missing and that, a few years ago “were common in these vendutas.” The onion is conspicuous by its absence, “the sweet potato that was always there is no longer there and the pumpkin is also missing.” An old woman added other absentees: “corn is not even dreamt of, the cassava seems to have emigrated and before they brought eggs but now that is a luxury.”
While the adults waited their turn to shop, some teenagers took the opportunity to connect to the internet in the park’s Wi-Fi zone and the little ones ran around the sculpture of Quintín Bandera, a general of the war of independence. Leaning on the base of it, the old woman to whom the banana was given rested in the shade before returning home. At least for today she didn’t leave empty handed.
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