Day 11 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

The Havana market in Boyeros and Camagüey usually has a short line but these days it’s exploded. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 31 March 2020 – Two hours of lining up and it was only possible to buy two of each product. This morning we had to go out looking for some food because our reserves were depleted. We decided to go to a market on the corner of Boyeros and Camagüey that usually has a short line, but we were wrong. The line went around the building. In coronavirus times the offers decrease and the lines multiply.

The police presence is striking. Uniforms are inside the market, near the cash register, at the door of the warehouse, outside the store. We are in an undeclared “state of siege.” Legislation is fuzzy in this case. Can we leave our houses or not? How much of the same product can we buy? Official voices impose certain measures but there is no clear legality to uphold or define them.

Tempers, in addition, are heated. In the line this morning, two customers nearly came to blows. A fight in Covid-19 times is rare. If before people swooped down and shouted right into each other’s faces, now they squabble from a distance, a hullabaloo that marks the space. Even the ritual of anger changes in Cuba these days.

I returned home with two cans of sardines and a package of flour. It is what it is. Tomorrow I will improvise some croquettes. The search for food, which has always had a special role in this country, now absorbs everything, concentrates everything, surpasses everything. From the time we wake up, our life revolves around getting food and putting it on our plates. There are two obsessions: surviving and feeding ourselves.

Even ideology seems to be fading. The demonstrations of political fervor that were so frequent a few weeks ago have been suspended or postponed. The May Day parade, in a country where the only union allowed is a transmission-line from the Power to workers, has also been canceled. Reinaldo says that he remembers something like that in 1970 when the 10 million ton sugar harvest was attempted. But I was not born yet.

Today we venture to make a family lunch and invite those relatives we suspect we will go weeks without seeing again. It was like saying goodbye but in advance. The table was the center that brought us back together and, of course, the coronavirus dominated the conversation. We speak of positive cases of the disease already reaching 186 in the country, according to official data, and that at least six people have lost their lives due to the pandemic.

Until a few days ago, those were people who shared a table with their family just as we did this Tuesday. They breathed, they had dreams and they loved, but it all ended abruptly. Understanding that fragility gives us a special strength to deal with all this, because you end up understanding the true human measure in the face of chance, disease and the environment.

Before sitting down to our plates, we all went through the rituals of handwashing, keeping our distance, and kisses that are now given only with the fingers or a gaze. We will be many days or weeks without seeing each other, but this Tuesday we decided that illness and shortages are not going to take away the memory of a lunch together.

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