I’m pretty absent-minded. I can leave my keys in the house and close the door, and leave my wallet in the refrigerator. So I am forced to use a bunch of tricks not to forget anything. I have an engagement book where I write what I need to do and I write on scraps of paper – all over the house – the endless array of trivial tasks, which I mustn’t neglect. Even so, something always escapes me and generates a “small catastrophe.”
Before the evidence of my neural limitations, I have had to develop certain mnemonic resources, so as not to lose my mind with the dual monetary system that exists in Cuba. The daily choice about which currency to use to pay for services and products that we need puts a strain on my premature Alzheimer’s. So I carry in my left pocket the currency called “national,” which looks rather like money from a Monopoly game, without any real value; while within the reach of my right hand I keep – when I have them – the convertible pesos.
If I must pay for a bus, buy a newspaper or get into a museum, I know that it is the sinister side of my pants which houses the useless papers with which they pay our salaries. Now, if I need to buy soap, cooking oil or toothpaste, it’s the turn for my right hand to dive into the other pocket. Normally, I walk the city and rarely find something that makes me take out one of the bills with the face of the Apostle or the effigy of the Bronze Titan. Each day my left pocket becomes even more useless, while the “convertible currency” becomes obligatory to survive.
With this monetary schizophrenia we have lived for fifteen years. The confusion about which money to use is not the saddest part, but rather how to get the convertibles pesos to put in “the right pocket.” These bills without faces (look carefully and you will note that they only show monuments or statues, never the direct look of some hero) are our collective obsession. To have them, we must do just the opposite of what would bring us the national currency. We have to break the rules, deflect resources to the black market, corrupt ourselves, perform illegal work or – in the most innocent case – receive them from some friend or relative abroad.
The day seems far away in which we can put a hand in the same pocket, extract the face of Marti, Gomez or Maceo and buy with “national currency” that which is sold in our country.