14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana | 23 December 2023 — This Saturday morning, a portrait of Fidel Castro waited for the curious people who approached one of the kiosks at the New Year’s Eve fair on Zanja Street in Central Havana. Next to the image, a pair of tennis shoes, a poor copy of the Nike brand, cost 16,000 Cuban pesos, four months’ salary for a professional. Authorities instructed the merchants to place some slogan, flag or photo of the leaders of the Communist Party in each stall.
“A lot of propaganda but everything is very expensive,” complained a young man who came to the fair to buy a new wallet. “Mine was stolen yesterday and now I’m doing the paperwork for a new identity card”, he lamented. Traditionally, during the end of the year, thefts spike “because everyone is desperate for money”, the man considers. “I’m going to have to add what I am going to spend here to what I lost because of the thief”.
Others came to the fair searching for food for the Christmas celebrations. The Cuban capital’s authorities had announced the sale of agricultural products as a “salute to the upcoming 65th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution”, but at the Zanja Street Fair the supply of food, vegetables and meat was very scant. Some withered lettuce and some dirty beets made up the assortment to put on the plate. The rest were caps, clothing, footwear and personal hygiene products.
“At what price are they going to sell the broth?” an old man asked two men who were stirring a steaming pot behind a sign announcing “our challenges and our victories”. “It’s going to take a while, grandpa, because we’re starting now and when we get it out it will be 50 pesos a glass”, one of the improvised cooks responded. Under a photo of Raúl Castro, women’s handbags were displayed at prices between 1,500 and 3,000 pesos, depending on the size and the material.
Guarded by an image of Ernesto Guevara, cigar in mouth, a set of clothing for girls combined pink tones with the faces of Disney characters. Later, next to a July 26 flag, beach flip-flops were offered, also imitations of well-known brands, such as Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger. A few meters away, a Mipyme kiosk sold soft drinks and frozen chicken, all imported.
This Saturday, a few meters from the fair, the end of year summed up what Cubans are experiencing, trapped between inflation and the excesses of political propaganda.
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