The paper was recently stuck on a wall in Tulipan Street: “I unblock cell phones,” it said, and gave the phone number of the shrewd technician. More and more frequently, you see ads offering puppies for sale, auto parts, or offering the services of someone who repairs kitchens or polishes floors in your home. They’ve been placed by the more daring in the informal market for services, trades and offers, upon which we all depend. A stream of businesses that lack legal spaces where they can spread out, but who manage to show their merchandise with as much or more effectiveness than the official trade.
These little handwritten cards remind me of the workplaces and schools outside of Cuba where I was fascinated by the bulletin boards crammed with requests and offers. One, “cheap lodging,” “someone who wants to buy a laptop,” or a trip that needs “new riders to pay for the transport,” were some of the classifieds that I saw posted on them. None of this can be read on the boring walls, covered with political slogans, that appear in the Cuban universities, factories or businesses. The students and workers are not authorized to have a physical space to post a little paper asking for a book, a computer part, or a room to rent. Nor are there any sites like that for the rest of the populations, just as there are no local radio or television channels that devote brief minutes to informing about trades or lost objects.
To me, not allowing these boards is one of the most visible signs of control over all kinds of spontaneous organization or interaction among citizens. Their absence is a real shame, because these columns or boards stuffed with ads energize a city and give life to schools, offices and shops. But instead of that, posting the smallest card to “sell this thing” or “buy that other thing” continues to be, here, an act of transgression, an action that you must do clandestinely in one night, on a wall—in shadow—while no one sees.