Lack of Staying Power / Yoani Sanchez

Our Duty is to Overcome

The elevator is a concentration of odors at all hours. When fish arrives at the ration market it’s impregnated with a strong smell of mackerel for days. The man who sells homemade pizzas on the upper floors leaves his aromas, as do the colonies of babies whose mothers take them out for a walk. Sometimes there is a sweet fragrance, most intense, that sticks to the clothes of those who rise and fall in the small metal cabin. Everyone knows it’s the strong effluvium from a flirtatious neighbor who seems to “bathe” herself in colognes and creams every time she goes out into the street. So the joke of the day is to refer to the “tremendous staying power of her perfumes…” A phrase also used outside the context of cosmetics and creams to indicate when the effect of something is strong and long-lasting.

Well, our entire reality lacks staying power. A service is inaugurated today and four weeks later it already begins to lose quality and is restricted. They announce with great fanfare the expansion of train departures or an improvement in bus frequencies, but a few months later everything returns to what it was before. They open the doors of new cultural or recreational institutions and barely half a year later they fall off the cliff for lack of supplies and deterioration. Maintaining standards is an impossibility, even for many self-employed workers who seem to have inherited the State sector’s propensity to decline. Popular wisdom advises using or visiting certain places within the first 72 hours of their opening, because later… nothing will be the same.

The lack of staying power extends from architectural restorations — that will soon have damaged paint from the humidity and leaks in the roof — to bureaucratic procedures which only work efficiently on the first day. Ephemerality marks our pace, transience is the fate of quality in Cuba. Proof of this are the services provided by our post offices and banks. Every now and then, there are reports of administrative transformations to make then efficient, but the improvements don’t last. The time is takes for us to learn about an advance is enough for it to evaporate. Like a ephemeral artwork — or a cheap perfume — the advances often fade without our ever having time to realize they existed.

9 February 2013