Havana: Bread’ Pills’ and Weed / Iván García

Néstor, a baker, on one of his dawn work shifts, after selling 60 lbs of hard bread to the owner of a private cafeteria, places a “missed call” from his mobile to a guy how lives in another Havana neighborhood. (He calls, lets it ring once, and hangs up.)

It’s the agreed-upon signal. Some ten minutes later, the man appears on a motorbike. Néstor makes his buy. Two “yuma” marijuana cigarettes for 10 CUC. And a stash of powered Ketamine for 100 pesos. In the reeking bakery bathroom the baker prepares a “bazooka” — he mixes the Ketamine with the grass, and after wrapping it in a cartridge colored paper, he carefully smokes it with joy. As a complement, he makes a deal with another baker and with 2 CUC they acquire a half-liter of white rum.

Not everybody hooked on strong drugs in Cuba has the 50 CUC or more that a gram of mecla (cocaine) can cost. So then other options are sought. The most common is the native marijuana, that can be bought for 20 pesos a cigarette. Or Parkinsonil tablets, offered in clandestine Havana at between 20 and 25 pesos each tab.

But there are many and varied forms of “flying”. According to Yulieski, a suburban low-life and admitted drug addict, there is a list of medications that leave the effect of euphoria just like some other drug, besides being cheaper. From Homopatrina Drops through injections for asthma. Those who work night shifts, like Nestor the baker, are already used to “pilling” themselves up or smoking pot, to chase the sleepiness and tiredness away.

But it’s among the “celebrities”, as they call the people who frequent clubs and fashionable discotheques, where drugs and psychotropics cause furor. Many of the attendees who can pay a cover of as much as 10 convertible pesos, carry a gram of cocaine in little rocks or marijuana cigarettes in the folds of their jackets or in their cigarette boxes.

“The fastest way to roll good joints is with coke in rock or powder. It’s as important as having money or a car. In general, after the disco, private parties are put on on the beach or in a house supplied with enough liquor, sex, and drugs”, explains the “celebrity” Yasmani.

“Some reggae musicians are sick on powder and grass, also sons of government officials, and intellectuals of renown,” he assures me. “Drugs and pills, together with alcohol, play important parts in the Havana night.”

The worst, besides the harmful effects on the body, is that the number of youth drug addicts is growing. At the start, it seems like such an inoffensive hobby. And they do it to “change the body,” as the baker Nestor likes to say.

Then it turns into an indispensable necessity. Nestor himself, thanks to the sale of bread, flour or oil under the table, in a morning looks to make 500 pesos. For some time now, owing to his excessive addiction to drugs, he comes home with empty pockets.

Iván García

Photo: Smoking marijuana. Now and again, the authorities discover marijuana fields in any province of the island.

Translated by: JT

30 Jan 2013