Three Kings Day in Cuba Accompanied by High Inflation

Stuffed dolls at an open-air market in Havana go for 6,000 pesos apiece.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, January 6, 2024 — “I didn’t suddenly wake up this morning flush with cash so my children are only getting cookies and soft drinks this year.” This is how one woman summed up her financial situation on Saturday. She and a friend were at the open-air market on Central Havana’s Galiano Street, looking for something to give her children on Three Kings Day. Surrounded by dolls, tiny fire trucks and stuffed animals with Minnie Mouse faces, the two friends perused the items for sale.

“Everywhere you look it’s 3,000, 4,000 or 7,000,” lamented the woman after inquiring about the price of several products. “That Barbie over there costs 6,000 pesos. That’s two months’ pay for me,” she added after asking about a box that also included a couple of changes of clothes and shoes for the lanky plastic body crowned with platinum blonde hair. “For that amount of money she ought to be able talk.”

The vendors brush off the criticisms and refuse to lower their prices. “Expensive?Everything is expensive here in Cuba. Just coming here cost me money in transportation and investment costs,” replied one young man to a father who criticized him for charging 3,000 pesos for a stuffed Pokemon doll. Not far away a brightly colored plastic telephone, with keys that light up and beep when they are pressed, costs 5,000 pesos. “I came here without my daughter because she would be upset if she saw this.”

Although Cuban officials downplayed Three Kings Day celebrations for decades — the most ideological hardliners describe them as evidence of the “capitalist fever of consumerism” — many families have tried to revive the tradition in recent years. Though state-owned stores currently sell few toys, and certainly not expensive ones geared towards this holiday, sales of children’s items have been growing on the informal market and at small, privately owned businesses more recently.

While some parents buy presents weeks in advance, others wait until January 6, hoping to find something at a close-out sale or because they had not been able save up enough money until then to buy a baseball and bat, a water pistol or a small kitchen with cups and pots. But the rise in the cost of living is also having an impact on children’s entertainment. This year, the Three Magi rode into town atop runaway inflation faster than any camel, which makes any gift that a child ultimately receives smaller and more ephemeral.


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