I heard it when I was in the patio taking in some clothes I had washed because it looked like rain. I don’t know who shouted to someone on the block that there were potatoes with police. I perked my ears because, like the smartest of the bunch, I was intrigued by this pronouncement. The person addressed asked and got an explanation that there were potatoes in the store, but they were only giving ten pounds of potatoes per person, and that the queue and order were being controlled by the police. In Cuba, the same way that what the authorities call liberty and democracy aren’t, ten pounds aren’t ten, because the scales are damaged by the corruption that gangrenes at almost every level.
We Cubans are accustomed to persuading our young children of the importance of eating “la papa” — potatoes — to grow strong. For the Cuban adult population, not only has this staple disappeared for five decades, they have been weakened by being made to run from one place to another in our country in the search for food,but their time and energy has been diverted to prevent them from using it to think about other topics.
If a product is scarce for many years, as has been the case with this root vegetable – and for most everything in Cuba – it’s natural that people want to buy the largest quantity permitted by their budgets, so as to guarantee variety in the diet of their family for a greatest number of days. Others, perhaps, place it on the table as the only option, but we would all like it to be on sale all the time, accessible to whomever wishes to consume it, in the amount desired and not when the authorities want or direct it. But we are a country blocked by inefficiency, incompetence and lack of order. These, among others, are some of the prejudicial signs that cause the necrosis of our economy.
I started fantasizing during my domestic chores and imagined how my city should be in this 2011; without piles of garbage in the corners, without rats and other disease-carrying vectors running through it, with houses with a coat of paint (not only the facades), with gutters also dressed up and with well executed ramps to prevent handicapped people from encountering architectural barriers; children reciting childhood texts and not poetry about a soldier who died firing his weapon for the politicized morning school assembly; a press that is free and truthful – reliable rather than “realigned” – unions equally free, trade associations, political pluralism, a civil society that is independent from the state, monitoring and observance of human rights and fundamental liberties, where people aren’t jailed for wanting to promote democratic change by peaceful means, where all Cubans can enter and exit our country freely, independent executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, a mixed economy, etc.
I was also of a mind to solve, also in my imagination, Cuba’s food problems when the strident voice of a street vendor – not mindful of grammar – returned me to my routine: “Sponge mops, sticks to hang clothes, floor mopppps …!”
Translated by: lapizcero
October 27 2011