A Package to ‘La Yuma’ / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

Post Office in Havana. (EFE)
Post Office in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Zunilda Mata, 17 March 2016 – At 3:10 in the afternoon she entered the wide and deserted corridors of the main Cuban post office. Sonia had been carried away by the news and had packed up a small box with photos and a few souvenirs she wanted to send her sister in Florida. But the objects collected to send to the hands of her intended recipient encountered an obstacle: it still isn’t possible to send a package direct to the United States.

The scene took place just as the national and international press announced the reestablishment of direct mail service between the two countries, interrupted for decades. Almost five hours after the IBC Airways plane with the first mail from the United States landed in the Cuban capital, at Window No. 11 at the Ministry of Communications (Mincom), Sonia received a “no” in answer to her attempt to send a small package to Coral Gables.

“Packages still can’t be sent to the United States,” explained an employee behind the glass.

Again, Cuban reality belies the headlines. Susana, director of Mincom’s Postal branch, tries to convince the customer that she must have “misread” the newspaper, because “it is not yet possible” to send letters and packages directly to “la Yuma.” Her words resonate with an echo in a place where hardly anyone tries to send a money order from one province to another and others submit claims for the contents of shipments have been lost.

The employee corrected herself in the face of Sonia’s astonishment. “The thing is, we don’t have all the regulations for how to send things,” she justifies. Communications between the two governments — enemies for more than half a century — seem to be easier to resume that communications with Cuban citizens. “We take parcels for anywhere in the world except the United States,” the official emphasized.

The director repeats the same speech and insists that the direction whether to apply to the United States the same regulations applied to all other countries has not been received. “The agreements have been made but this is lacking,” she concludes. Every word she utters sounds like a new obstacle that will have to be overcome for any postal exchanges between the two shores.

In addition, Sonia receives confirmation of a more disturbing news. “Anyway, today is the last day to send or receive packages, because everything is stopped until the United States president leaves.” The reason, apparently, is congestion at the Havana airport as a result of the presidential visit.

Sonia asks whether the service, if any, can be paid for in Cuban pesos. “Yes, because we don’t blockade ourselves,” replies the branch director. But her phrase is vague and delivered with little enthusiasm. As faded as the stamps on Cuban letters.