Flailing Around in the Dark / Rebeca Monzo

A sale at a doorstep

The year has begun, and we see timbiriches* sprouting all over, selling mostly the same products that are sold neighborhood after neighborhood. Necessity has made everyone set up tables outside to sell—in the hope of deriving some financial benefit from it—all sorts of products. The ones that have proliferated the most are the ones that sell food items. It’s logical: when money is scarce, food tends to be the only thing that sells. Bread and roasted pork, bread and ham, bread and omelet, cheese pizza, etc. The omnipresent ingredient is bread.

Many people are already speculating on the scarcity of bread and flour at grocery establishments. The long lines are back—all the time—in front of the stores that sell both items. If you are successful in buying bread, even when it is not expensive (10 pesos per pound) it is seldom of good quality. It usually lacks fat, or it has not been properly baked.

Just the other day, when my friend Armando returned from the bakery with a pound and a half of bread, a very tidy gentleman—even if humbly dressed—approached him with very good manners and explained to him, ashamed, that he had not eaten for the day and did not have the ten pesos to buy liberated bread (that is bread that is not sold through the rationing system). He asked if he could have a piece. My friend, moved by such strange request, immediately gave him the half pound he had just bought. Still amazed by what he had experienced, he told me what had just happened: “The worst of all this—he said—is that, for fifty years now, we have been flailing around in the dark, and we still insist in implementing already tried models that, in the long run, did not produce any results because we didn’t first prepare the proper infrastructure.”

*Translator’s note: Timbiriches is a Cuban word meaning a very small business, such as a stand, kiosk, umbrella, or selling out of one’s home.

Translated by T

January 23 2011