14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 7 November 2021 — It’s noon on Saturday and a group of people find themselves together in a cafe on San Francisco Street in Central Havana. Some are taking a break to eat, while they wait in line to get into Maisí, a nearby store where customers can now find consumer goods that have not been available for months at stores that accept Cuban currency. After several customers arrive, the place quickly becomes a small debating salon.
A teenager complains to his father about the price of pizzas. “Forty pesos, papá. Christ! Before they cost 1 CUC* (24 pesos). You can’t live in this country anymore,” he says in a loud voice. “That’s why I’m going out to protest on the 15th [of November], to shout ’Down with communism!’” The boy fails to notice that there are also two policemen in the cafe.
His father immediately looks toward the uniformed officers, fearing the worst. Though the police have been there awhile, the staff is taking its time serving them, one of the subtler forms of resistance against the forces of law and order, whose presence has recently become more visible on Cuban streets, especially after the violent suppression of the public protests last July.
“Don’t say things like that. They’ll hear you,” warns his father, pointing to the police with a nod of his head.
“Don’t scold the boy,” interrupts another customer. “If nobody says anything, nothing will change. We don’t solve anything by staying silent. And the young always prevail.” Several faces turn away from the pizzas, fruit smoothies and ham sandwiches and towards the conversation taking place.
“Then I don’t know what we did it for. If he was there on the 11th [of July], so were you and I. The neighborhood was empty,” the youth mockingly replies, alluding to their joint participation in that day’s demonstrations. His father’s face reddens as he directs his son’s gaze towards the two officers, who are looking at the ceiling as though they have heard nothing.
A woman joins in on the conversation. “Of course we have to go to the march,” she says with determination. “Just look around. How long has it been since we were able to buy toiletries in this neighborhood? Everyone knows the only reason you can find them today is because they’re trying to calm things down. But I’ll buy them and go to the protest. Just like the first time.” Everyone laughs as they leave with their pizzas in hand, headed towards the store.
The police are virtually the last to pick up their orders.
*Translator’s note: CUC = Cuban convertible peso, one of Cuba’s two currencies, which has now been eliminated.
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