‘I Buy Food!’ The Desperate Cry That Went Unanswered in Havana

This Tuesday morning the thick voice of a town crier rang around our building. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 July 2022 — Proclamations recorded and broadcast through loudspeakers are part of the musical band of the Cuban reality of this century. In our neighborhood, a wide variety of them are heard every day, ranging from the already classic “Ice cream sandwiches!” through “I fix mattresses!” to the surprising “I buy empty shampoo bottles!” To these we can add that the current economic crisis is giving birth to its own oral announcements.

This Tuesday morning a thick voice swept through the surroundings of our building. “I buy food!” the man repeated for long minutes as he walked around the block. In other times, the noise from nearby Boyeros Avenue might not have allowed us to hear it from the higher floors of this rough concrete block, but the lack of fuel has reduced the traffic and its constant hubbub, so that announcement was heard “clarito clarito” [loud and clear]. “I buy food!” slipped through the blinds and the balconies.

For half an hour, that peculiar crier moved from the nearby train tracks to the mountain of garbage that has been growing for weeks on the corner of Estancia and Santa Ana. He made a stop at the nearest twelve-story building, repeated his shouts a few yards from the wide parking lot of the Ministry of Agriculture, approached those who were lining up for the rationed products at the bodega, and finally the desperate notice faded little by little as the man headed towards Tulipán Street.

During that time, no one responded to his cries. No neighbor looked out over the balcony to tell him, like others who shout their merchandise or his services, to wait for him to come down right now to sell him some bread, a bag of potatoes or a liter of yogurt. They didn’t even tell him to shut up from the apartments where they were trying to get a baby to fall asleep or where a grandmother was nodding off on the balcony. Nor did the “hardened” militants of the Communist Party show up to combat that phrase, which was more rebellious than any opposition slogan.

“I buy food!” he repeated, and the silence of the neighborhood spoke without uttering a word. From the silence that came out of the houses a clear answer could be extracted: “We don’t have any!”


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