“It will be resolved in another way,” Jorge told his brother when he learned of the abolition of lunch at several workplaces. His job as a cook in a state agency had made him live on the margin of the symbolic salary he received every month. Thanks to the diversion of food and its subsequent sale in the black market, he managed to exchange his small house for a more ample one. He acquired a DVD player that let him avoid the boring television programming and even took his kids on vacation to Varadero in the past. His business was simple: he was in charge of providing rice to a kiosk that offered boxed lunches, he supplied oil—that he got from a warehouse—to an entrepreneur, and a sandwich seller paid him for those breads that never made it to the trays of the workers.
Now, everything seems to be over for this agile trader at the margins. Several ministries will begin to distribute 15 Cuban pesos for the employees to arrange for their own midday meal. The figure has surprised many, especially those who earn less than that amount for an eight hour working day. If the amount dedicated to lunch reaches such a number, then the Cuban State is recognizing that to cover the costs of food and transport they would have to pay, at least, three times this amount for each day of work.
Now Jorge is thinking about changing jobs within the same company and taking on the position of manager. Until a week ago, this was a job with too many responsibilities and too few “perks”, but suddenly it has become an attractive position. It will be in his hands to confirm how many days an employee worked and was entitled to the lunch payment. He is already planning to take a broad view towards employee absences and divide the lunch allotment between himself and the employee who didn’t come. He will happily change the sacks of beans and flour for the names and cards where attendance is recorded. Maybe by next year he’ll be able to take his family to the far off beach at Baracoa.