A day without the black market

    a_votar.jpg

I try to imagine an incredible twenty-four hours in which I wouldn’t have to rely on the informal market. What about a day without the milk from those who knock on my door, replacing the absence of dairy in the rationed market for those of us who are older than seven and younger than sixty five? I can’t conceive of a day without immersing myself in the black market in order to buy eggs, cooking oil or tomato paste. Even to buy some peanuts, I must cross the line of illegality.

If I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, most likely I’ll have to take an unlicensed taxi.  Not to mention the wide spectrum of underground workers to whom I go when my washing machine breaks, my gas stove clogs or the shower stops working. All of them, in the shadows, sustain me day-to-day and supplement the limited services offered by the State.

Even the newspaper I must buy overpriced, from the seniors who, awake since dawn, acquire all of the copies of Granma and Juventud Rebelde and resell them to make up for their reduced pensions.  And let’s not even talk about the “unmentionables” that are provided to us by the black market or the numerous “open sesames” that we can get by slipping a bill into the right hands. But the most surprising is the infinite capacity of regeneration, shown by the informal vendors, after one of the frequent raids against them.

I don’t know about you, but me, I can’t live a day without the black market.

Photo caption:  Old people who sell products in the “black market” to supplement their meager pensions.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “A day without the black market

  1. I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well. But it was interesting! Look for some my links:

  2. Es cierto que hayn carros classicos en Cuba que no se usan porque no hay gas? Pueden Americanos visitar a Cuba? Cuanto cuesta un cuarto por semana en hotel? Es peligroso salir a los bailes? Que vida dificil tienen Uds…

  3. José Chavez

    who do you think you are lying?
    The changes in Cuba are not visible, you only have to take a walk and see around, the miserable conditions of your country, of people, of public institutions!
    Your time is off. You could do a lot for your country but you didn´t!

  4. THE SUPER-REVOLUTIONARIES

    Every day I carefully read the opinions about Cuba in the traditional press agency releases, including those from the peoples which were part of the USSR, those from the People’s Republic of China and others. News reaches me from the Latin America press, from Spain and the rest of Europe.

    The picture is increasingly uncertain as we face the fear of a prolonged recession like that of the 1930s. On July 22, 1944, the United States government received the privileges granted in Bretton Woods to the most powerful military power, that of minting the dollar as the international exchange currency. After the war, in 1945, with its economy intact, that country had at its disposal almost 70 percent of the world gold reserves. On August 15, 1971, Nixon unilaterally decided to suspend the gold backing for each dollar minted. With this he financed the slaughter in Vietnam in a war that cost more than 20 times the real value of its remaining gold reserves. Since then, the United States economy is sustained by natural resources and the savings of the rest of the world.

    The theory of continuous growth from investment and consumption, applied by the most developed to the countries where the vast majority is poor, surrounded by luxuries and the wastefulness of a tiny minority of wealthy individuals, is not only humiliating but destructive, too. That pillage, and its disastrous consequences, is the cause of peoples’ growing rebelliousness, even though very few are aware of the history behind the events.

    The most gifted and cultivated intellects are included on the list of natural resources and they have their price tags on the world market of goods and services.

    What is happening with the super-revolutionaries of the so-called far left? Some simply lack realism while others enjoy the pleasure of dreaming sweet dreams. Others still are far from being dreamers and are experts in the subject; they know what they are saying and why they are saying it. It is a well conceived trap that should be avoided. They recognize our breakthroughs as if it were a favor to us. Are they really short of information? That is not how it is. I can assure you that they are absolutely well informed. In certain cases, the alleged friendship with Cuba allows them to attend numerous international meetings and chat with as many people from abroad or from the country as they want, without any objection from our imperial neighbor just 90 miles away from the Cuban shores.

    What is their advice to the Revolution? It’s pure poison; the most typical of the neoliberal formulae.

    The blockade does not exist; it would appear to be a Cuban invention.

    They underestimate the Revolution’s most colossal achievement, its work in education, the massive cultivation of peoples’ talents. They sustain that some must live doing simple and rough work. They underestimate the results and exaggerate the costs of scientific investments. Even worse: they overlook the value of the healthcare services that Cuba provides to the world; actually, with modest resources the Revolution is stripping bare the system imposed by imperialism which is lacking the human personnel to carry it out. They advise investments which are ruinous, and the services they provide, such as rent, are practically free. If foreign investments in housing had not been stopped in time, they would have constructed tens of thousands without any more resources than the prior sales of that same housing to foreign residents in Cuba or abroad. Furthermore, they were joint enterprises governed by a legislation intended for productive companies. There were no limits for the authority of the buyers as owners. The country would supply services to those residents or clients, without the need of being knowledgeable in science or computers. Many of the dwellings could be acquired by the enemy intelligence agencies or their allies.

    We need some of the joint enterprises since they control very necessary markets. But you can hardly flood the country with money and not sell our sovereignty.

    The super-revolutionaries who prescribe such medication deliberately ignore other resources which are truly decisive for the economy, such as the growing production of gas which, when purified, becomes an invaluable source of electricity without affecting the environment and brings with it hundreds of millions of dollars each year. About the Energy Revolution promoted by Cuba, of vital and decisive importance for the world, not one word is spoken. They go even further: they see an energy advantage for the island in the production of sugarcane –a crop that was grown in Cuba with semi-slave labor– to counter the high cost of diesel being guzzled by the automobiles of the United States, Western Europe and other developed countries. The egotistical instinct is being fostered in human beings while the price of food is doubling and tripling.

    Nobody has been more critical of our own revolutionary work than I have, but they shall never see me hoping for favors or apologies from the worst of the empires.

    Fidel Castro Ruz

    September 3, 2007.

    8:36 p.m.

  5. BUSH, HUNGER AND DEATH

    For the first time, just before the UN discusses, as it does every year, the project of the Cuban resolution condemning the blockade, the President of the United States announces that he will adopt new measures to accelerate the “transition period” in our country, equivalent to a new conquest of Cuba by force.

    On the other hand, the danger of a massive world famine is aggravated by Mr. Bush’s recent initiative to transform foods into fuel while, calling on strategic security principles, he threatens humanity with World War III, this time using atomic weapons.

    Such crucially important issues are the ones attracting the attention of the representatives of the countries that will be meeting on Tuesday, October 30, to discuss the Cuban project condemning the blockade.

    In elections where voting is not mandatory, our people have just given their verdict, with more than 95 percent of the electorate casting their vote at 37,749 polling stations, in ballot boxes guarded by school children. That is the example provided by Cuba.

    Fidel Castro Ruz

    October 22, 2007

    5:48 p.m.

  6. REFLEXIONES por Eduardo Galeano

    Cuando fueron desalojados del Paraíso, Adán y Eva se mudaron al África, no a París.
    Algún tiempo después, cuando ya sus hijos se habían lanzado a los caminos del mundo, se inventó la escritura. En Irak, no en Texas.
    También el álgebra se inventó en Irak. La fundó Mohamed al-Jwarizmi, hace mil 200 años, y las palabras algoritmo y guarismo derivan de su nombre.
    Los nombres suelen no coincidir con lo que nombran. En el British Museum, pongamos por caso, las esculturas del Partenón se llaman “mármoles de Elgin”, pero son mármoles de Fidias. Elgin se llamaba el inglés que las vendió al museo.
    Las tres novedades que hicieron posible el Renacimiento europeo, la brújula, la pólvora y la imprenta, habían sido inventadas por los chinos, que también inventaron casi todo lo que Europa reinventó.
    Los hindúes habían sabido antes que nadie que la Tierra era redonda y los mayas habían creado el calendario más exacto de todos los tiempos.
    En 1493, el Vaticano regaló América a España y obsequió el África negra a Portugal, “para que las naciones bárbaras sean reducidas a la fe católica”. Por entonces, América tenía 15 veces más habitantes que España y el África negra 100 veces más que Portugal.
    Tal como había mandado el Papa, las naciones bárbaras fueron reducidas. Y muy.
    Tenochtitlán, el centro del imperio azteca, era de agua. Hernán Cortés demolió la ciudad, piedra por piedra, y con los escombros tapó los canales por donde navegaban 200 mil canoas. Ésta fue la primera guerra del agua en América. Ahora Tenochtitlán se llama México DF. Por donde corría el agua, corren los autos.
    El monumento más alto de la Argentina se ha erigido en homenaje al general Roca, que en el siglo XIX exterminó a los indios de la Patagonia.
    La avenida más larga del Uruguay lleva el nombre del general Rivera, que en el siglo XIX exterminó a los últimos indios charrúas.
    John Locke, el filósofo de la libertad, era accionista de la Royal Africa Company, que compraba y vendía esclavos.
    Mientras nacía el siglo XVIII, el primero de los borbones, Felipe V, estrenó su trono firmando un contrato con su primo, el rey de Francia, para que la Compagnie de Guinée vendiera negros en América. Cada monarca llevaba un 25 por ciento de las ganancias.
    Nombres de algunos navíos negreros: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesús, Esperanza, Igualdad, Amistad.
    Dos de los Padres Fundadores de Estados Unidos se desvanecieron en la niebla de la historia oficial. Nadie recuerda a Robert Carter ni a Gouverner Morris. La amnesia recompensó sus actos. Carter fue el único prócer de la independencia que liberó a sus esclavos. Morris, redactor de la Constitución, se opuso a la cláusula que estableció que un esclavo equivalía a las tres quintas partes de una persona.
    El nacimiento de una nación, la primera superproducción de Hollywood, se estrenó en 1915, en la Casa Blanca. El presidente Woodrow Wilson la aplaudió de pie. Él era el autor de los textos de la película, un himno racista de alabanza al Ku Klux Klan.
    Desde el año 1234, y durante los siete siglos siguientes, la Iglesia católica prohibió que las mujeres cantaran en los templos. Eran impuras sus voces, por aquel asunto de Eva y el pecado original.
    En el año 1783, el rey de España decretó que no eran deshonrosos los trabajos manuales, los llamados “oficios viles”, que hasta entonces implicaban la pérdida de la hidalguía.
    Hasta el año 1986 fue legal el castigo de los niños en las escuelas de Inglaterra, con correas, varas y cachiporras.
    En nombre de la libertad, la igualdad y la fraternidad, la Revolución Francesa proclamó en 1793 la Declaración de los Derechos del Hombre y del Ciudadano. Entonces, la militante revolucionaria Olympia de Gouges propuso la Declaración de los Derechos de la Mujer y de la Ciudadana. La guillotina le cortó la cabeza.
    Medio siglo después, otro gobierno revolucionario, durante la Primera Comuna de París, proclamó el sufragio universal. Al mismo tiempo, negó el derecho de voto a las mujeres, por unanimidad menos uno: 899 votos en contra, uno a favor.
    La emperatriz cristiana Teodora nunca dijo ser revolucionaria, ni cosa por el estilo. Pero hace mil 500 años el imperio bizantino fue, gracias a ella, el primer lugar del mundo donde el aborto y el divorcio fueron derechos de las mujeres.
    El general Ulises Grant, vencedor en la guerra del norte industrial contra el sur esclavista, fue luego presidente de Estados Unidos.
    En 1875, respondiendo a las presiones británicas, contestó:
    –Dentro de 200 años, cuando hayamos obtenido del proteccionismo todo lo que nos puede ofrecer, también nosotros adoptaremos la libertad de comercio.
    Así pues, en el año 2075, la nación más proteccionista del mundo adoptará la libertad de comercio.
    Lootie, Botincito, fue el primer perro pequinés que llegó a Europa.
    Viajó a Londres en 1860. Los ingleses lo bautizaron así, porque era parte del botín arrancado a China, al cabo de las dos largas guerras del opio.
    Victoria, la reina narcotraficante, había impuesto el opio a cañonazos. China fue convertida en una nación de drogadictos, en nombre de la libertad, la libertad de comercio.
    En nombre de la libertad, la libertad de comercio, Paraguay fue aniquilado en 1870. Al cabo de una guerra de cinco años, este país, el único país de las Américas que no debía un centavo a nadie, inauguró su deuda externa. A sus ruinas humeantes llegó, desde Londres, el primer préstamo. Fue destinado a pagar una enorme indemnización a Brasil, Argentina y Uruguay. El país asesinado pagó a los países asesinos, por el trabajo que se habían tomado asesinándolo.
    Haití también pagó una enorme indemnización. Desde que en 1804 conquistó su independencia, la nueva nación arrasada tuvo que pagar a Francia una fortuna, durante un siglo y medio, para expiar el pecado de su libertad.
    Las grandes empresas tienen derechos humanos en Estados Unidos. En 1886, la Suprema Corte de Justicia extendió los derechos humanos a las corporaciones privadas, y así sigue siendo.
    Pocos años después, en defensa de los derechos humanos de sus empresas, Estados Unidos invadió 10 países, en diversos mares del mundo.
    Entonces Mark Twain, dirigente de la Liga Antiimperialista, propuso una nueva bandera, con calaveritas en lugar de estrellas, y otro escritor, Ambrose Bierce, comprobó:
    –La guerra es el camino que Dios ha elegido para enseñarnos geografía.
    Los campos de concentración nacieron en África. Los ingleses iniciaron el experimento, y los alemanes lo desarrollaron. Después Hermann Göring aplicó, en Alemania, el modelo que su papá había ensayado, en 1904, en Namibia. Los maestros de Joseph Mengele habían estudiado, en el campo de concentración de Namibia, la anatomía de las razas inferiores. Los cobayos eran todos negros.
    En 1936, el Comité Olímpico Internacional no toleraba insolencias. En las Olimpiadas de 1936, organizadas por Hitler, la selección de futbol de Perú derrotó 4 a 2 a la selección de Austria, el país natal del Führer. El Comité Olímpico anuló el partido.
    A Hitler no le faltaron amigos. La Fundación Rockefeller financió investigaciones raciales y racistas de la medicina nazi. La Coca-Cola inventó la Fanta, en plena guerra, para el mercado alemán. La IBM hizo posible la identificación y clasificación de los judíos, y ésa fue la primera hazaña en gran escala del sistema de tarjetas perforadas.
    **********************************************
    En 1953 estalló la protesta obrera en la Alemania comunista.
    Los trabajadores se lanzaron a las calles y los tanques soviéticos se ocuparon de callarles la boca. Entonces Bertolt Brecht propuso: ¿No sería más fácil que el gobierno disuelva al pueblo y elija otro?
    Operaciones de marketing. La opinión pública es el target. Las guerras se venden mintiendo, como se venden los autos.
    En 1964, Estados Unidos invadió Vietnam, porque Vietnam había atacado dos buques de Estados Unidos en el golfo de Tonkin. Cuando ya la guerra había destripado a una multitud de vietnamitas, el ministro de Defensa, Robert McNamara, reconoció que el ataque de Tonkin no había existido.
    Cuarenta años después, la historia se repitió en Irak.
    Miles de años antes de que la invasión estadunidense llevara la Civilización a Irak, en esa tierra bárbara había nacido el primer poema de amor de la historia universal. En lengua sumeria, escrito en el barro, el poema narró el encuentro de una diosa y un pastor. Inanna, la diosa, amó esa noche como si fuera mortal. Dumuzi, el pastor, fue inmortal mientras duró esa noche.
    El Aleijadinho, el hombre más feo del Brasil, creó las más hermosas esculturas de la era colonial americana.
    El libro de viajes de Marco Polo, aventura de la libertad, fue escrito en la cárcel de Génova.
    Don Quijote de La Mancha, otra aventura de la libertad, nació en la cárcel de Sevilla.
    Fueron nietos de esclavos los negros que generaron el jazz, la más libre de las músicas.
    Uno de los mejores guitarristas de jazz, el gitano Django Reinhardt, tenía no más que dos dedos en su mano izquierda.
    No tenía manos Grimod de la Reynière, el gran maestro de la cocina francesa. Con garfios escribía, cocinaba y comía.

  7. Hola, Yoani –

    As a foreigner who spends long periods of time visiting this fascinating, frustrating and mysterious country of yours, I find a lot in your columns which provide me with food for thought. Keep up the good work. I heard about you late last year and am pleased to see that your materials are not also coming out in both language. Es mas facil para mi en ingles, y entonces, voy a escribir en mi idioma primera.

    Right now I’m just wrapping up another three months here and going around saying goodbye to various friends and acquaintances before returning to the United States. I’ll sure be glad to be back there with my own DSL internet access at home. I wondered if DSL would ever come to this place, but a few weeks ago I went to Cienfuegos and found wireless DSL in the hotel where I spent a couple of nights. Someday everyone here will be able to have DSL, I hope.

    You’re so right about the pervasiveness of the black market (“bolsa negra” in Spanish) which seems to fill in so many gaps which the formal sector is unable to do for itself.

    Just yesterday, while visiting some friends here, a knock came on the door and there was a man who had a small backpack filled with re-cycled water bottles. Inside the bottles was fresh and very tasty yogurt which he was selling for one peso (CUC) per bottle. A tasty white cheese (“queso blanco”) often finds its way around through the same method, and with the convenience of home delivery, those who can afford it are glad to have the chance to purchase it in this way.

    What you write about transportation using unlicensed taxis is also quite accurate, though I’ve gotten the impression on this visit that no one is bothering the drivers of these ten peso cabs (“maquinas” as they’re called here.) these days.

    You describe the local newspapers as “overpriced”, but really, at one regular Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional”), are they really so expensive? And since it’s nearly impossible to find one at the kiosk for its actual cover price, one peso seems a bargain to me. Yes, I can afford it, I’ll admit.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your materials. I know that Cuba has all sorts of problems, and the more interchange there is between Cubans and the broader world, the better, in my opinion.

    Best wishes.

    Walter Lippmann
    p.s., the photo which illustrates this story talks about the upcoming elections here on Sunday. What’s your take on the elections and will you yourself go and vote? (I’m not asking how or for whom, but if you will go to the polls.)

    Anyway, hasta la proxima vez…

  8. Hola, Yoani –

    As a foreigner who spends long periods of time visiting this fascinating, frustrating and mysterious country of yours, I find a lot in your columns which provide me with food for thought. Keep up the good work. I heard about you late last year and am pleased to see that your materials are not also coming out in both language. Es mas facil para mi en ingles, y entonces, voy a escribir en mi idioma primera.

    Right now I’m just wrapping up another three months here and going around saying goodbye to various friends and acquaintances before returning to the United States. I’ll sure be glad to be back there with my own DSL internet access at home. I wondered if DSL would ever come to this place, but a few weeks ago I went to Cienfuegos and found wireless DSL in the hotel where I spent a couple of nights. Someday everyone here will be able to have DSL, I hope.

    You’re so right about the pervasiveness of the black market (“bolsa negra” in Spanish) which seems to fill in so many gaps which the formal sector is unable to do for itself.

    Just yesterday, while visiting some friends here, a knock came on the door and there was a man who had a small backpack filled with re-cycled water bottles. Inside the bottles was fresh and very tasty yogurt which he was selling for one peso (CUC) per bottle. A tasty white cheese (“queso blanco”) often finds its way around through the same method, and with the convenience of home delivery, those who can afford it are glad to have the chance to purchase it in this way.

    What you write about transportation using unlicensed taxis is also quite accurate, though I’ve gotten the impression on this visit that no one is bothering the drivers of these ten peso cabs (“maquinas” as they’re called here.) these days.

    You describe the local newspapers as “overpriced”, but really, at one regular Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional”), are they really so expensive? And since it’s nearly impossible to find one at the kiosk for its actual cover price, one peso seems a bargain to me. Yes, I can afford it, I’ll admit.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your materials. I know that Cuba has all sorts of problems, and the more interchange there is between Cubans and the broader world, the better, in my opinion.

    Best wishes.

    Walter Lippmann
    p.s., the photo which illustrates this story talks about the upcoming elections here on Sunday. What’s your take on the elections and will you yourself go and vote (I’m not asking how or for whom, but if you will go to the polls.)

    Anyway, hasta la proxima vez…

  9. “I call a “tactic,” on the other hand, a calculus which cannot count on a “proper” (a spatial or institutional localization), nor thus on a borderline distinguishing the other as a visible totality. The place of a tactic belongs to the other. A tactic insinuates itself into the other’s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its entirety, without being able to keep it at a distance. It has at its disposal no base where it can capitalize on its advantages, prepare its expansions, and secure independence with respect to circumstances. The “proper” is a victory of space over time. On the contrary, because it does not have a place, a tactic depends on time-it is always on the watch for opportunities that must be seized “on the wing.” Whatever it wins, it does not keep. It must constantly manipulate events in order to turn them into “opportunities.” The weak must continually turn to their own ends forces alien to them.”

    Michel de Certeau, “Introduction,” The Practice of Everyday Life

  10. It’s a crazy system. If everyone in Cuba is a criminal then I would have to say the system is criminal.

    There are MANY “criminals” in Cuba but I prefer to call them entrepreneurs.

    Imagine when people can actually work for themselves, make a profit, buy a car and a home…

    What’s so criminal about that?

Comments are closed.