Holguin’s Garayalde Market Reopens with “Free” Prices but Regulated Sales / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

The Garayalde market in the city of Holguin, at its reopening on Tuesday 19 January. (Fernando Donate)
The Garayalde market in the city of Holguin, at its reopening on Tuesday 19 January. (Fernando Donate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, Cuba, 20 January 2016 — The rain did not stop hundreds of people from gathering on Tuesday morning outside the emblematic Garayalde market in the city of Holguin, waiting for its reopening after eight months of repairs. In its second opening in less than a decade, the commercial center aims to offer a wide range of products.

The line to enter Garayalde started forming the day before and to organize it people were given numbers and allowed to enter in groups. The first to enter when the market opened had slept outside from the early hours of the morning to guarantee their place.

Most customers were carrying backpacks and big bags to fill with some of the 180 products that had been announced for sale at the market, promoted by Ana Maria Aguilera, market administrator, on the local TV channel Tele Cristal the day before.

However, neither the quantity nor the quality of the available products lived up to expectations. Several consumers interviewed by 14ymedio agreed that they hadn’t found a great deal that was new. “They are the same products they had before they closed,” said one lady a little disgusted by the long wait. She also talked about the prices, which she considered excessively high.

The first day after the repairs had barely begun when most customers headed to the meat counters. Unlike other products, pork at 17 Cuban pesos a pound (about 56¢ U.S.) was an attractive price for people who, over the last quarter, had seen the price climb above 30 CUP a pound.

Nor were there controls lacking to prevent disruptions. Outside the market it was evident very early in the police operation and the presence of troops to making discipline at the reopening.

The local administrator told the press, “We appealed to the police to organize the link and to help avoid customers hogging products for resale. We are all going to work together to ensure that this scourge of society doesn’t happen here.”

She also clarified that sales would be unrationed, but regulated, and specified the amounts that would be sold per person: two cartons of eggs, five pounds of meat and ten pounds of rice, “with the objective that everyone would get some.”

In the line there were women with children. One of them confessed that she had brought her five-year-old daughter to get “priority in buying” and to not have to wait “in such a long line.”

The managers of the shopping center, which employs 70 workers, expected to exceed 100 million Cuban pesos in sales, which depends on producers and suppliers being able to deliver the amounts committed. Most of these are local industries, cooperatives and State farms.

It is not the first time this market center, created in the early eighties of the last century, has undergone renovation. Its previous reopening was in 2009, after repairs and conversion into a market for the sale of unrationed domestic products. This time there was a general reconstruction with a reorganization of the departments to make the market work better, according to an official from the provincial Accommodation and Food Services company, which owns the market.

Expectations, however, exceeded the internal distribution of supplies. Four hours after opening this Tuesday, the market had run out of meat and canned sauces and tomatoes.

A clerk said it had been a lot of demand and that he had sold everything available to him for the day.

The only meat remaining for sale, which no one wanted, was ground hamburger and ground chorizo, at 20 and 28 Cuban pesos per kilogram respectively. Also sold out was any kind of seafood. In the candy store, of ten products only three were still on display.