Toilet Paper for Hen’s Eggs / Dora Leonor Mesa

Saturday morning. In the ration market butcher’s, a girl asked, almost begged, for the butcher to exchange the broken eggs he’d given out.

“The eggs broke on the way, and then they try to get me to exchange them for sound ones,” the seller said in an arrogant tone.

“Please, this too.”

Actually to supply the broken eggs is part of the extra revenue of the local butchers where they sell rationed products. The sale of chicken, fish, or ground beef reports other substantial gains in the black market.

The customer leaves and another arrives. The butcher notes on the ration card the ten eggs per person. She brought a large plastic container into which the butcher is putting the eggs. Suddenly the woman exclaims:

“Not that one, it’s very dirty. It’s dangerous to my health.”

“Madam, I have no toilet paper to clean the eggs. If it doesn’t suit you, go to the company and complain there. I only have to remove the broken ones. The clean eggs are the American ones, these have to be taken like this.”

“I don’t have to go anywhere, that’s your responsibility,” the woman answered, and after paying, in a rapid movement, she broke an egg on the sidewalk.

“I will die of hunger, but I won’t put dirty eggs in my kitchen, much less blood-stained ones,” she added calmly, while leaving the place.

The bewildered man flew into a rage.

“Did you see what she did? She broke an egg!”

Those present looked astonished. Among them, a middle-aged woman, very nicely dressed, began to defend the butcher and explained loudly,

“She can’t break an egg. She has to buy them like that. One can only demand at the ’Shopping’ paying in hard currency.”

“You’re wrong, the woman can break whatever eggs she likes, because she paid for them,” commented a young woman who had been silent. “People are paid in Cuban pesos. The “Shopping” are not the markets for the people, our market is this one and we have to demand our rights. Perhaps they would respects us a little more.”

Clarifying notes:

Shopping: This is what Cubans call stores that sell in hard currency. A CUC, Cuban convertible pesos, is worth 25 Cuban pesos. The products on the ration book are paid for in Cuban pesos.

Egg consumption is an important part of the daily diet of the Cuban population; among the available protein goods, it is one of the cheapest. Usually eggs are sold at different prices, the most economical are acquires in Cuban pesos, although it’s true that many times in the people’s markets they are sold stained, dirty, and sometimes the boxes they come in have insects.

April 10 2012