‘Wrapped Up Like a Tamale,’ This is How You Travel on the Cuban Roads When Temperatures Drop

The place does not have “the minimum conditions” to protect itself from the cool winds of this December, complains this 44-year-old Havana woman who was heading to the city of Ciego de Ávila. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 December 2022 — Before leaving her house, Danyelis checked everything she was carrying: the briefcase and backpack, a bottle of water, money and identity card, as well as sweaters and a snack for the road. But not even so many precautions prepared her for the cold she experienced at the Havana Bus Terminal. The place does not have “the minimum conditions” to protect itself from the cool winds of this December, laments this 44-year-old Havana woman who was on her way to the city of Ciego de Ávila.

“The station is hot in the summer and cold in the winter because when the temperatures rise, the air conditioning does not work well, but when they go down, the cold sneaks in everywhere,” Danyelis explains to this newspaper. What she experienced at the terminal was going to be a warm memory compared to what awaited her on the road trip. “People put towels, sheets and even backpacks on top of them” because the Chinese-made Yutong bus “seemed like a can of sardines full of holes.”

Just at the time when the thermometer began to plunge, the woman and dozens of passengers were traveling between the western area and the central part of the Island, a large flat area where the lowest temperatures are recorded. “It wasn’t just the cold; it was that we could hardly eat anything along the way because no one was selling food,” she warns. “The vendors who almost always go out when they make a stop didn’t even approach the bus.”

“When we arrived in Ciego de Ávila we were all wrapped up in clothes like a tamale; it was a relief to get off the bus,” says Danyelis. “People were not prepared because we don’t have good coats here, and the elderly or people who live in a home that is in very bad condition are the ones who have the worst time.” Homeless people, who usually spend the night on stairs to buildings, doorways  or parks, also experience more difficult days when winter arrives.

With temperatures below 20 degrees, Cubans have experienced a winter weekend that has coincided with the Christmas celebrations. The low temperatures have deterred many from going out on the streets, which for much of Sunday and Monday were especially empty of passers-by. However, around shops and markets, the lines for food were barely shrinking.

“As soon as I arrived in Ciego de Ávila, my family made me a hot soup. Luckily, they had been able to buy the chicken a few days ago,” the woman explains. In her neighborhood of Centro Habana, from where she began her Christmas trip, there are hundreds of neighbors who are still in long lines trying to get the pork that the State is distributing in a rationed way, between 235 and 250 pesos per pound. “My mom stood in one of those lines, wrapped in rags, and it’s still there.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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