Cuba: A Year Without New Clothes or Shoes

Clothes hang from the front porch a building that had been a successful high-end restaurant before the pandemic.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana/Miami, 10 April 2021 — This week a “venduta” [small commercial space] opened on the front porch of a building in Havana’s Vedado district. Second-hand clothing now hangs a few yards away from the entrance of what had been a successful high-end restaurant before the pandemic. It is an attempt by desperate entrepreneurs on 23rd Street to generate some income.

Among the items are evening dresses that cannot be worn for their intended purpose due to Covid-19 restrictions. Pants that might have been used for strolling down a boulevard or dancing in a nightclub are now just everyday wear. For the past year state-owned stores have been selling little more than groceries and cleaning supplies. Customers can buy household appliances in hard currency stores but, because they are not considered emergency products, clothing and footwear are not available there.

Supplies on the black market, normally the island’s steady supplier of fashionable clothing, are very depressed because the ’mules’, who get their merchandise from overseas, have been unable to travel. “You have to dress in whatever is available,” explains a woman looking at some clothes hanging at a makeshift front-porch store on the Avenue of the Presidents. “No matter how much I look, I just end up going from place to place. And you can forget about finding anything even remotely elegant,” she says.

On the sidewalk a young man hesitates, unsure whether or not to reach for the hangers. A year ago he would have been looking for brand-new clothes but now it’s this or nothing.


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