Moist trivialities

In the same days that the dismissal of Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque was catching the attention of the foreign press and the local rumor mill, Xiomara was worrying about something closer to home.  For the past four months, in her town of Pinar del Rio the sanitary pads that women use to mitigate the cycles of the moon haven’t come.  She and her daughters cut up a couple of sheets and managed to make some towels, which they washed after using.  If the ration market lacks feminine hygiene products, the already small number of towels and pillowcases remaining in Cuban houses would diminish even further.  Mother nature does not understand the mechanisms of distribution, and so every twenty-eight days we have damp evidence to put them to the test.

Xiomara recounted, with the shame of having to speak publically about something she would prefer to keep private, that the employees at her company had the same problem.  “Because of this we might refuse to go to work,” she told me, and I imagined a “Strike of the Period,” a massive protest marked by the ovulation cycle.  However, nothing stops in the province of Pinar del Rio for this “triviality.”  The officials continue to speak of “recovering from the hurricanes” and the newspapers—which unfortunately cannot be used as sanitary pads—mention exceeding the goals of the potato harvest.  The drama was hidden in the bathrooms and manifested itself in two new wrinkles on the foreheads of some females.

There are those who think that the dismissal of several officials, or the merger of two ministries, are the real steps on the road to change.  I feel, however, that the triggering spark of the transformations could be, simply, a group of women tired of washing out, every month, the cloths used during their menstrual cycles.

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18 thoughts on “Moist trivialities

  1. YO VINE EN 1968 Y EN 1964 YA NO ENCONTRABAS LAS TOALLAS SANITARIAS TAMPOCO LAS HABIA Y TENIAMOS CUBOS PARA HERVIR ESOS PEDAZOS DE SABANAS Y FUNDAS, YO SE QUE ERES JOVEN Y AGARRASTES UN POCO DE TOALLAS SANITARIAS PERO EN LOS 60″S YA NO LAS HABIAN AH ! Y JAVONES PARA LAVAR ? ERA UN LUJO TENER AMISTADES TRBAJANDO EN LOS HOTELES DE AQUELLOS TIEMPOS QUE NOS CONSEGUIAN LOS PEDACITOS DE JABONES DEJADOS POR LOS CAÑEROS, PORQUE NO ERAN TURISTAS EN AQUELLOS TIEMPOS.
    ASI QUE , CARENCIAS ? DESDE ENERO DE 1959, ARRAZARON CON TODO.
    TU SIGUE ADELANTE TE ADMIRO HASTA LO MAXIMO , POR TU CUBANIA Y TU CORAJE.

  2. Hola Amigos,
    I have an address to send supplies to the women of Pinar del Rio.
    I do not want to post it here for all kinds of reasons which you can imagine, but anyone who wants to send a package, simply send an email to: desdecubaenglish -at- gmail.com and I will send you the address.

    Your friendly English translator

  3. Here are the full regulations on the US Postal Service site. Its very confusing, but they do say that you can send small packages up to 4 lbs.

    http://pe.usps.com/text/Imm/ce_017.htm#ep1416554

    I would defer to people with direct experiences trying to mail stuff. From what I heard its a mixed bag all around (USPS, DHL and “mules”). Some times it gets there…sometimes it doesn’t.

    Anyone with direct experience ? What works best ?

  4. Americas Red Cross says they cannot personally send items but has recommended some companies in Miami that ship humanitarian supplies (I think what we are talking about falls under that scope) to Cuba.
    Almacen El Espanol, 461 1st1359 SW 1st Street, Miami, FL; 305-643-2000; Sends medicines, clothes and food.
    Azalia’s Pharmacy Discount, 461 E 49th St., Hialeah, FL 33013; 305-685-9556; Sends all types of packages.
    Cuba Envios, 9766 SW 24th Street, Miami, FL 305-553-7070
    If this is possible, where do we send the packages??

    There are a few more, go to: http:
    //74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:39P9VUSVnvkJ:www.miamiredcross.org/pdf/cubapolicy.pdf+red+cross+sending+packages+to+cuba&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    They also make this statement at the bottom of their page about Cuba:
    American Red Cross (ARC)
    Greater Miami & The Keys
    Information Regarding ARC’s Role in International Requests

    For further information, inquirers may contact the Export Counseling Service of the U.S.Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., telephone: (202) 482-4811.
    for the benefit of the Cuban people. The Department of Commerce must license all exports of Commerce. Information on exporting procedures can be found on their web site at:
    http://www.bxa.doc.gov/factsheets/medsht.htm.

    Direct Mail to Cuba
    • Direct postal service to Cuba from the United States is limited to letters, Braille letters for the blind, postcards and printed matter sent as airmail, surface mail, IPA or International Surface Air Lift. No air or surface parcel post or small packet service is available. The U.S. Treasury Department must license currency, postage stamps for sale or exchange, checks, securities and other financial instruments in order to be sent to Cuba. In urgent situations, senders may want to use DHL, an international express mail service; telephone is 1-800-225-5345.

  5. http://ircalc.usps.gov/IntlMailServices.aspx?Country=10083&M=2&P=4&O=0&sd=1

    You can send mail to Cuba form the US through the US Postal Service. Here are the regulations. It is generally advised to wrap the shit out of the package with packing tape.

    This latest revision of the USPS regs re Cuba only permits a box measuring 1-3/4″X5-1/2″X8-1/2″, and weighing less than 4 pounds, to go as a “Priority Mail” package to Cuba. $12.95 ($12.30 if you pay for it online).

    There is also another category, “First-Class Mail”. This “new” regulation appears to be a return to what it once was. Any package weighing less than four pounds whose height, width and length is less than 36″ can now be sent from the US to Cuba. $29

    Lots of info on this topic over at the Thorn Tree Travel Forum regarding the effectiveness of sending packages and people’s experiences with getting stuff through. Its generally a good idea not to send money or medication. Good luck ! I personally would send some pads and tampons :)

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=14&start=0

  6. My dear friends:

    That specific sanitary and very useful product, is not the only one that has been lost for years and years.

    I remember -and, if I’m wrong, please, somebody has to let me know!!!!- that, for example, in “Havana Vieja” ( the old part of Havana City ), the WATER,,,,,that basic and important source of life, has been out of reach of her population since the 70’s.!!!!!,,,yes,,,I’m not wrong!!!!!, in Havana Vieja, anybody can see a lot of peoples, carrying drums, buckets, any kind of container, etc,,,,with WATER for drink, cook, and of course SANITARY necessities too!!!! pulling the containers all the way from too far and hoisting it, using a rope for 3,4,6,7, etc, floors, just, because the old pipeline system that was build it 200 years ago, has not been replaced, or, has not been serviced, just because the Cuban Communist System has been enough inept to keep it that way.

    Of course, this is regarding only with the Old Part where the Cuban Population lives!!!!,,,the other Old Part ,keep it as a “Living Room” for tourism and propaganda, has water and everything, but, in that part there are just few Cubans, and that part is the smallest part of that Old Havana Vieja!!!!.

    I’m mentioning just Havana Vieja as an example, that situation with the water distribution is happening since the same time, in many, many towns and Cities of Cuba, where every time that a Cuban is able to take water from a Water Truck-Tank (Pipa de Agua)is the happiest person in the world.

    The best example, could be took it, just taking a look of every Cuban roof (azoteas cubanas) you would see a lot of drums, containers, etc, as a water reservoirs , that simple!!!!!!!!!!!, the best proof is the look, anybody can do it and will see it with his own eyes!!!!.

    Candido

  7. Yes, I think you can easily send a small box of “PADS” or tampons to Cuba,from the USA, for less than 4 dollars. It would be fun to flood her mail box and give her a mechanism to distribute among other women who have those same needs. We need to help impower the Cubans and get them back on their feet and on their toes. Through Yoani’s blog I feel the struggles of the everyday people in Cuba. Thanks to everyone who makes this web-site and Blog possible. How about an address to a center that helps women in side Cuba, but not where our donations will be sold to make money for the State a/k/a CASTRO BROTHERS AND FAMILY, INC.

  8. My hope is there is some way to help, in the meantime, my good thoughts and prayers go to the people of Cuba. Please post or give another blog or email address so we can do something. I know there are so many people willing to help.

  9. The latest joke in Cuba is ‘you can always tell when a Cuban woman is having her period: because she`s only wearing one sock”.

  10. I am sure that the Castro government have money to buy weapons.
    Replacement part for the aging Mig planes fleet. Since their interest is to stay in power even at the sacrifice of their own people. Defending “the honey of power” that belongs only to the Castro’s.

    It will be ironic that these simply but very important necessities of live is what will get the revolution down and not the Americans military might. The inability to provide basic needs like a tooth brush, a bar of soap or just simply tooth paste. Something we all take for granted.
    Is the embargo responsible for all these unsatisfied necessities?
    No, the inefficiencies in the Cuban government are
    The priorities the Cuban government places on its own survival are responsible.

    We have witness how the American government has extended a friendlier hand to the Cuban government and what have we seen?
    The Cuban government have done nothing. How could they?
    If they do they will loose one of the basic mechanism of control.
    People have to be worry about if they will have sanitary pads or tooth paste or simply what to eat or what medicine to give to a dying mother or family rather than being worry about a government that does not function like it should.

    A government that puts the Cuban people first.

    What is their response to Yoani’s message?
    Yoani they consider a traidor because she is telling …
    instead they should consider going thru the long list of her complaints and the complains of many other citizens and try to solve them.

    But is easier to blame her of being paid by others to said what she said. How could she complaint as she does after receiving “free education” and “free health care”. In their minds she does not have the right to complaint to be so ungrateful!
    To think that all of these individual miseries have to be suffer so that two individuals would keep enjoying “The honey of power!”.

  11. In light of the strong interest on the part of women readers to help… I have requested an address or addresses where ‘care packages’ of pads and tampons could be sent. If we get a reply, I will ask other readers to explain how to send packages reliably to Cuba. For those who might be contemplating it from the United States, putting a package in the regular mail is not the way to do it!

  12. PLEASE post a mailing Address and I also promise to mail your little friends something. I don’t know why some basic personal hygiene products are not readily available in a socialist country. PRETTY BASIC HUH,

  13. Perhaps there is an address where she receive mail…if so I know plenty of people that could send the products she is in need of.

  14. From what I understand Cubans are “allowed” to get mail from the U.S. but in a previous blog entry Yoani commented that in all the time she’s lived at her current address she has never received ANY mail. In Cuba, apparently… for the most part the mail just doesn’t get through.

  15. U.S. Plans Informal Meetings with Cuba

    From the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/world/americas/27cuba.html?ref=americas

    Some highlights:

    In an interview, a State Department official described the pressure building for a new policy toward Cuba as a “steamroller” and said that the administration was “trying to drive it, rather than get run over by it.”

    The official said any overtures toward Cuba would be made cautiously, allowing Mr. Obama to walk a fine line between those who want to end the embargo and those who see any engagement with Cuba as making concessions to a dictatorship. The official said that the administration also wanted to be careful to make it clear that its openness to engagement with Cuba did not mean the United States would turn a blind eye to the Cuban government’s poor record on human rights.

    Experts on Cuba said there were good reasons for Mr. Obama’s caution… The experts added that it was almost impossible to predict Havana’s next move and that the Cuban government had a history of shutting the door each time there was any serious move toward improving relations…

    Carl E. Meacham, who is a senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and who wrote a report critical of the United States’ embargo, said: “We in Washington have to focus on our own objectives, and not on events in Havana. What we’re doing is threatening to President Castro, and there will be reaction. But we have to keep moving forward.”

  16. It is if I was reading your mind (before reading today’s entry in your blog),because today I started packing for my next trip to Cuba and my luggage contain those valuable sanitary pads and tampons for my friends.I know how much they appreciate it.Also are packed vitamins,pain medication,children’s Tylenol etc.So it looks like I am ready to go ,the only problem is ,I don’t have space to pack my own clothes ! Oh,well,I can survive in a bathing suit.

  17. It is a sad reality that we and only a few of our supporters understand. You will never see those fellow travelers come in defense of all the things that are scarce in Cuba, especially things like the ones mentioned in this particular blog.

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