Lobster and Ground Meat to Calm Tensions in Havana

A line of customers outside a fish store on San Lazaro Street in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, July 27, 2021 — On Tuesday a rare scene unfolded on the corner of San Lazaro and Soledad streets in Central Havana. The fish market on that corner, which had been poorly stocked for months, suddenly had items which generated expressions of astonishment and long lines. Customers saw lobster, ground beef, snapper and processed ham listed for sale on the store’s chalkboard.

“They have so many things,” says a delighted Marcelo, a retiree who lives across the street from the store. “Normally, all they have are some really bad fish croquettes with a lot a flour but very little fish. It’s been a long time since they had anything worthwhile,” he observes while noting the prohibitive prices: “The lobster is more than 219 pesos a kilo.”

“The lobster was not good quality but they’ve already sold out because demand is so high. It flew out of there,” says Marcelo.

“This is all an attempt to calm people down,” speculates Aurora, a resident of Cayo Hueso, who got in line early, hoping for a little ground beef. “Lately, we’ve been seeing products we haven’t seen in a long time so, of course, everyone is wondering, if all this was in the warehouses, why they weren’t selling it; if people had to take to the streets to get them to release it.”

After widespread protests on July 11, government officials announced ration card holders would be entitled to an extra two pounds of rice per person. Farmers markets were also set up in Havana neighborhoods where demand has been high, such as La Lisa, El Cotorro and El Cerro. Unlike other occasions when the government tried to tamp down discontent, however, selections are few and supplies are limited.

“I remember one time there were power outages for several days in my neighborhood. After people started painting placards and throwing bottles off their balconies, they sold us canned meat, pastas, candies and even beer. That was when Hugo Chavez was sending over a lot of petroleum but times are harder now,” observes a neighbor of the San Lazaro fish market.

Nevertheless, in spite of the high prices and limited selection, the shortage of recent months has spurred dozens of local residents to join the line outside the store. “They’ll supply us with something this one time, then forget about us again,” observes a customer. “I am definitely going to buy some lobster, even if it costs me a week’s pension, because I want to experience the taste of seafood again before I die.”


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