Two Lines in Gervasio Street: Sitting to Buy Detergent, Standing for ‘Fruta Bomba’

People standing are in line to buy ‘fruta bomba’ and those seated are lined up to buy detergent. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 February 2021 — Any product can already provoke “a demonstration as big as May Day,” a customer who waited for more than two hours to buy fruta bomba* on Gervasio Street joked this Wednesday in Central Havana. In front of that line, dozens of neighbors were sitting on the sidewalk in another line, waiting to buy detergent.

In the municipality that for days has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the Cuban capital, yellow ribbons or metal fences divide the areas with long lines from those where residents must wait for official delivery people to bring food to them at home, due to the strict quarantine decreed in neighborhoods like Los Sitio. Neither envies the fate of the other. While some wait for hours outside bakeries and farmers markets, others may end up receiving bread for breakfast around noon.

In terms of food costs there are not many advantages within the quarantined areas either. “So far they have sold us two types of modules with food. One that costs 282 pesos and that brings a piece of chicken, detergent and two soaps,” a resident of the quarantine zone details from the vicinity of Rayo Street. “The other module costs 700 pesos and contains chicken, minced meat and oil, but many neighbors have not bought it because they have no money,” he laments. “We’ve only been at this for three days and I’m already counting the pennies.”

“No low-priced food, much less free feed. Besides being locked up, they are charging us dearly for what they sell us at the door and, on the other hand, distribution is very slow. Yesterday at my house we ate at ten at night because between the time they sold us the food and we were able to cook it, they took the one thousand and five hundred pesos from us,” adds another neighbor who lives in one of the streets perpendicular to the central Reina avenue. “Who would have told me that I was going to miss the lines? But I miss them, because at least that way I could look for more options, but here is what I got.”

A few meters from his house and on the other side of the fences that define the quarantine area, almost a hundred people wait to buy cleaning products. They are sitting next to each other on the ledges of the steps and the doorways of the houses. The line are not the same as before: now the whole city is a long line, regardless of what they are selling.

*Translator’s note: ‘Fruta bomba‘ is ‘Cuban’ for papaya – which in Cuba is a rude word for a part of the female anatomy.


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