The Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba, Days 67 to 73: The Lines, Our Life and Our Death

Lines, so common on the Island, are a risk area, especially in Havana, where coronavirus cases continue to rise. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 June 2020 – The lines no longer last for hours, but rather days. It was happy, the voice of a friend who called me last Friday, he sounded relieved to tell me that after days of waiting his number, 306, finally was reached, permitting him to buy chicken at a store in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, in Havana. His turn in line allowed him to go home for a bath, some sleep and to wait until Monday to collect the product.

Yesterday the phone rang and he didn’t seem so lively anymore. When he went to buy the package of chicken thighs from his efforts, the store manager informed him that “the merchandise didn’t come and the papers distributed to mark the places in line can no longer be honored.” The paper with the three digits ended up in bits on the sidewalk and my friend returned home, where his two elderly parents, seven dogs and four cats were anxiously waiting for him.

The lines, the markets and the food stalls are a dangerous focus for infections in a city where social distancing has been relaxing in recent days and in which we are obliged to go out every day to look for food.

“A tube of toothpaste is 10 CUC [roughly $10 US] on the black market,” another friend tells me, who has decided to save what little she has left by brushing with salt, bicarbonate or just water. She prefers that rather than “pay almost ten times the official price of the product” or spend the same number of hours in a line to get it through legal channels. Little by little we are cutting out parts of our lives and ending up with the most basic.

Buy flowers? No, they are superfluous. Celebrate a birthday? When the pandemic passes. Get some new shoes? An unnecessary expense. Have a photo printed to hang on the wall? Who can think of it, when that money will buy a few pounds of sweet potatoes.

Use both a fork and a spoon to eat? How crazy, and with what detergent is all that going to be scrubbed? Discard the water from the rice after rinsing it? Leave the waste and use it to make vinegar. Sleep through the night? The hours for rest depend on whether there is electricity and the fan can be turned on.

And so, life is reduced, narrowed and severed. The coronavirus and the crisis make us elemental beings, of a single dimension.


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