Dragon’s Breath

It seems that an anti-kissing and anti-closeness strategy has been in place for some days in Havana: toothpaste went missing. The humble consumer who micromanages the pennies in strong currencies obtained from his meager worker’s incentive or received from relatives who have emigrated – workers exploited by capitalism who plan their vacations, travel and invest around the world without permission, and in spite of that financially help their oppressed loved ones in the Cuban paradise – mostly buys strictly the basic goods in the markets that sell in foreign currencies.

But in Cuba we are vulnerable to the dictatorship of anti-consumerism and prey of the State oligopoly, since when they want to get rid of a Cuban product that no one buys, they stop stocking the foreign alternative so that we will be forced to buy the domestic one, which is almost always of poor quality and with a minimal price difference. That is, they substitute domestic products for the imports, mocking the rights of the buyers, whose ability to choose they arbitrarily limit imposing a lack of options: take it or take it! No alternatives. They choose the shortest and most dishonest route instead of working to ensure the excellence of the domestic products.

The State controls all trade and, in a way that is inefficient and unfair to society, prevents competition from the private sector in those businesses. They do not allow the private citizen to set up a store, nor offer what he produces in one of the many State chain stores. So, whether it’s bad or mediocre, we must be satisfied with whatever the State offers, and furthermore reward them with a smile.

After several days using numerous water-and-salt rinses, this September 22nd the citizens of Havana were pleasantly surprised with a domestic toothpaste of the “Sonríe” (Smile) brand. That state-manufactured concoction with scant menthol is not acquired through workers’ merit, volunteer work, diplomas or passwords, but with strong Cuban pasta [money]: the CUC [Cuban convertible currency]. They charge 90 cents for it, which is equivalent to 22 pesos in national currency. As is natural, there will surely be people who will continue gargling in order to be able to smile without having foul-smelling dragon’s breath. When times are bad, put on a happy face, and if you have bad breath – no options – use Cuban toothpaste.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 28 2011