Lines as an Instrument of Social Control

In the lines, the lives of young and old pass by, and they have begun to bring their own seats to wait on the street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 December 2021 — If there was a collective, massive and omnipresent “organization” throughout 2021 in Cuba, it is the line. It is not that it is a novelty, but neither the failed “Ordering Task”, in force since the first day of the year, nor the end of the harsh mobility restrictions due to the pandemic have reduced the problem of shortages, shortages and, consequently, the crowds that form in front of the shops.

Lines for bread, lines for frozen chicken, lines for cheese and jams. Lines in stores that take payments in Cuban pesos or in foreign currency. Hours and hours of lining up, in short, to buy anything: potatoes , intimates, medicines, ice cream, preserves, gasoline, toys, shoes, appliances and even plastic bags.

The lines usually form in the early morning, but sometimes even days earlier. The excitement of Cubans to the “mark” their place in a line when  long “disappeared” products are “brought out” — the line has its own jargon, it is only comparable to disappointment when the items for sale run out prematurely.

The Cuban government does not improve production, but it does improve the methods of controlling what it calls coleros and hoarders. Of course, it does not always go well for them and, as happened a few weeks ago with a line to buy frozen chicken, a tángana (brawl) breaks out. Sometimes, as happened with cigarettes or washing machines in Sancti Spíritus, the crowd even becomes violent, but the authorities always prevent the blood from reaching the river.

The Cuban day has no more hours than to stand in line. In the line, the lives of young and old pass by, and they have begun to bring their own seats to wait in the street. In the line there is no time for anything else. The line, another form of social control and repression in Cuba.


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