Pushing, Hitting, and Screaming to Get a ‘Malta’ at the Holguin’s Children’s Carnival

Dozens of people wait in line in Holguín to buy sweets subsidized by the State (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Leonardo del Valle, Holguín | August 13, 2018 — Marlon was restless for a week, asking his parents every night when Sunday would come. Only seven years old, this young holguinero’s hope was to bounce on the inflatables, eat all kinds of sweets, and drink malta, that alcohol-free beer so well loved in Cuba, which has turned into a privilege.

The Children’s Carnival, held this Sunday in the provincial capital of Holguín, was intended to allow children to buy sweets at subsidized prices and enjoy different attractions, but the few products offered and the poor management by the State spoiled the event.

«This year the children’s package includes a packet of sugar wafers, one of Pelly candies and another of lollipops, an africana (cookie covered in chocolate) and a dessert,» Yanet, Marlon’s mother, tells 14ymedio. The packet costs 20 pesos, a privilege considering the rise in price of sweets.

Also available for purchase at the Children’s Carnival were cookies, candies, ice cream, and malta, all at rationed prices.

«More than a festival, this is a real disappointment for the children and especially for one, to see them cry because despite having the money it’s impossible to buy one of the cheapest items for sale. Who is going to enter that bloodbath to buy a package?» sighs Yanet.

The lines to buy the packages of sweets had to be managed by the police because of the tumult. At the points of sale, survival of the fittest was the rule. Pushing, hitting, screaming, to buy some sweets. All of this under an unrelenting sun. «The price of these products in malls is much higher. There’s no way that we can buy them. This is the only chance for our children to enjoy them,» comments a mother.

Puppets, carnival troupes, and all kinds of State-planned activities were seen this Sunday in Holguín

Malta, for example, which is produced in Holguín, has a subsidized price of 3 pesos in national currency. In malls a can of malta sells for 0.65 CUC (about 14 pesos), but it’s almost never available because private stores buy them and resell them for 1 CUC.

«There have been people here since last night to buy malta. They are practically the owners of the lines and they are selling their places in line,» says Marelis Garcés, at the front of the line for malta. «A bottle that costs 3 pesos here can later sell for 30-35 pesos. Every year it’s the same,» the woman laments.

For Luis Ernesto, the number of points of sale was fewer this year. «The problem is that this is almost never available during the year, and when they put it on sale, fights break out,» he said.

At the Children’s Carnival there were also cookies, candies, ice cream, and malta available for sale, all with rationed prices.

Children were greeted with floats and children’s carnival troupes as spectacles and fun games administered by self-employed people. The public complained about the prices, which are high because they are not subsidized by the State.

Local press outlets echoed the poor quality of the costumes of the carnival troupes. According to a report from the weekly Ahora!, the fabric that the State gave for this activity was some they were unable to sell because it was so unattractive. Every year fewer people want to participate in the troupes because the pay is so low, reported the local press.

The Children’s Carnival is a prelude to the festivities that will begin this Tuesday. The authorities has already announced that they will sell beer on tap in Los Chinos, El Estadio, the suburb Pedro Díaz Coello and Plaza Camilo Cienfuegos.

This Sunday, a little after ten in the morning, practically nothing remained for sale from what the State was offering at the Children’s Carnival. On the way home to the suburb of Vista Alegre, Yanet bought Marlon an imported malta in a mall. A few meters away, a reseller offered a packet of cookies for 15 pesos, 5 more than the original price, the same ones that ran out a few hours earlier at the State-owned points of sale.

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