The store is located in the left atrium at the corner of Galiano and San Rafael streets, where there used to be a Ten Cent store, long since rotted from age and filth. It’s like an alien spaceship that landed in a neighborhood that has seen many of its businesses turned into homeless shelters, and insignificant small offices closed because of blocked sewers. But Trasval is different. People baptized the large store, run, so they say, by the Ministry of the Interior, “the museum”, because of the high prices, in convertible pesos, of all the merchandise.

Trasval was playing at capitalism, with background music, employees dressed in suits and sporting earphones, cameras everywhere, and products we had never seen. We felt like chicks, tucked up in the lamplight and the tinkle of the melody, which would end at the cash register slaughterhouse where we would pay three months wages for a can opener. Inside, you can still see an area with tools for your swimming pool, though the clerks haven’t smiled at the customers in months and they no longer answer questions nicely.

The last time I was in that black-tile-lined bunker the collapse was already imminent. The air conditioning didn’t work; the employees had shed their warm clothing, including the ties; and yards and yards of the same product warned of the decline. All the can openers have disappeared and a scandalous rumor of corruption spread in the aisles. Its splendor was brief, its profit would have been enormous. Because Trasval was the latest commercial snare offered to Cubans, the latest elaborate bait prepared by that mix of merchants and secret police who swarm everywhere these days. Individuals who both traffic in goods and inform on us, sell us a lamp or spy on us from a corner, count the money or finger the pistol they wear on their hip.


132 thoughts on “Trasval

  1. This reminds of the sugar crisis going on here;bloody producers have hid the sugar in order to make the shortage more severe,& wont give any until the price is where they want it to be;but the most annoying thing about this is the fact that half of the mills doing this are owned by senators & parlimentarians ,& nobody cares or wants to ask;everybody does the same thing:they wear that pessimistic face & opinion,& only have criticism & suggestions for improvement,& it ticks me off so;when will we just get up & do things ourselves?just provide the basics for ourselves? :S


  3. They are also complaining about the scarcity of Water.

    We used to have the same issue
    We used to have water one hour a day so we had to stored water in pales
    it was hard life. Some times we even had to go down to get water and my student place was on the 16th floor of 12 and Malecon Student building
    Multiple times the elevator was broken so I had to go up the stairs.

  4. Watching the video now again
    Saw like 3 with phones and video cameras!!

    in addition to the one taking the video we saw!

    So they do have access to this technologies already and apparently it is wide spread!

    In the meeting they are talking about the necessity of keeping themselves united and one of them mentioned

    “In any way they can not expel a full school!”

  5. This shows how wrong the policy of isolations towards Cuba.
    The more access they have and we have with them the easier it is for them to do this things. And the more we can help them.

    Imagine if they had full internet access!

  6. One learning we get from this is that we need to be able to help them giving them small cameras so that they can film this acts and we can see them.
    So the regime later can not claim such and such and lie to everyone.

    Not anymore!

  7. You know I am a bit molested by the thoughts of how complacent is the foreign media in Cuba. They do not seem to be looking out for the news. And the news is happening everywhere in Cuba. They are just not looking. Why is that?

    Don’t they go and do research or they are not allowed?
    Can they go an interview Manuel
    and the other students and see what the end result is?

    The Cuban media is tied to the regime but the foreign media should not be.

  8. I wonder whatever happen afterward
    I think the foreign press in Cuba is not doing a good job following up on this stories.
    What is AP, CNN and Reuters doing in Cuba?
    Why don’t they get off the cushy sofa the regime has place for them and research this things and report on them?

    Sometimes they behave like the Cuban media!

  9. Cubano
    do not feel guilty we did what we have to do in our time.
    Now is the time for people to wake up and we can help them and give them our support.
    Find ways to help. By spreading the news about things happening in Cuba so that the regime can not cover it with its powerful propaganda machinery.

  10. I CANNOT TAKE THE CREDIT FOR THE VIDEO! That belongs to Joel Garcia who is a member like myself of a group on facebook APOYAMOS A YOANI SANCHEZ / WE SUPPORT YOANI SANCHEZ. This “guerilla” journalism is what will change the world and things in Cuba. I also must add how PROUD I felt of the young people in that video, specially the young man who initially spoke his mind and led those students. INSPIRATIONAL!!

  11. The whole thing from the beggining seems to be they are protesting for the bad food that they get. They always get the same food and then they are saying that the central committee sent some buses to pick them up to have a meeting with them
    and they are saying they will not move from where they are and that they will not go to classes until things change. One of the statements is that they say many of the students are sick because of the bad diet they have at school!

    Then they complained about the lack of freedom and how their liberty is taken away.
    How the political filter that Yoani so eloquently explained is exercise by those in power!

    The guy doing must of the talking is very brave and I hope the regime does not act against any of them.

    Their normal accusation in this cases is to say they are working for the enemy but they will never recognize these problems the students are pointing as real problems.

    To tell you the truth food in my time at the university was as bad as the one they are protesting. But I used to get by buying some toasted bread or going to a bakery near 12 and Malecon and the Baker will sell us a loaf of bread. I could not afford this all the time. I used to get only 15 pesos and I need it most of that money to travel back home every 15 days.

    When they give me food I did not like I just did not eat it.
    Remember many times we use to get rice with worms in it. Many where very picky
    I did not care. I was thinking well those worms are protein and all the eat is rice.

  12. Julio: I wondered why the little spur of the moment posters were so beautiful! Art students explains it.

    I wish you or someone could give us a brief summary of what they are saying. I really can’t follow it… I just got a few parts.

  13. The written words on the piece of paper at the end

    “El acto de la desobediencia,como
    acto de libertad
    es el comienzo de la LIBERTAD.”

    The act of disobedient, as
    an act of liberty
    is the beginning of FREEDOM.

  14. Andy I promise it will not have the Che image :-)

    The video from youtube by Humberto is fenomenal!!

    here is the direct link to YouTube

    Cuban youth is waking up to the inequalities of the regime.
    I have not finish yet washing but there is one part where they say that food in the UCI is better than the food they give them and that the food for the sport men is also better ( it reminds me of All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than other)

  15. I’ve been doing a bit of poking around the internet to round out the impressions Yoani and Liam had of the Trasval store.

    One website described it as the regime attempt to set up a Home Depot type store. There’s a photo of the exterior on this website:

    Sorry to say not much to look at from the outside.

    With the frequent power outages this year, it’s not at all hard to believe that the air conditioning wasn’t working when Yoani recently visited the store. I also suspect that the regime’s skill at supply chain management leaves a lot to be desired. While it may have been well-stocked at opening, keeping an inventory of popular items may be difficult or impossible, especially in light of the dramatic drop in imports this year and non-existent foreign exchange reserves.

    As far as the store looking busy when Liam visited, as another poster noted, Havana is a city of 2 million people and the place where the greatest number of Cubans have access to convertible currency.

  16. With tears in my eyes, my heart and pride goes to those young men and women from the ISA. Proud to see how our new generations are fighting back without fear and with a high level of intelligence.
    Since I left I have always felt so guilty about leaving and not have been strong enough to stay and fight for change like this cubans.
    They are the reason of my words here, they are the reason I strongly believe they and their children deserve only but the best.

  17. Humberto — FANTASTIC. For those like me who can’t follow the Spanish… if you don’t want to watch the whole thing skip through it and then go to the end where there are protest posters filmed along with the tray of food.


  18. Liam.
    Those cubans online with CUC, are “Lucky” enought to have family members or friends abroad, or are hustling out there that hard currency, facing danger and jail.
    There are many cubans are not that “Lucky”, look deeper into this, it’s a terrible unjustice.
    I said “Lucky” because we all have paid the terrible price of a painful separation, and forced emigration.


    “On October 22, 2009 several students from the Arts Institute in Havana were tired, tired of eating the same crap food every day, in a platic tray as a dish with a little pea, a little rice and a small portion of soy meat. In an act of spontaneity they mounted a protest on this issue, but then it turned into a claim for the most basic human rights such as dignity and freedom.”

    YOU TUBE VIDEO – click below

  20. Julio,

    Just one question before I accept my HONORARY CITIZENSHIP. Does my new “passport” have a picture of Che on it? If so, I respectfully decline.


  21. Concubino

    “This is just a hunch …but I think our FET is also one of the commentators.It is that is the case this section like the Spanish one is biased.”

    Can you explain how does the comments of the translator will make it biased?

    She is also a person interested in Cuba so why should her comments not be welcome?

  22. Have a nice dinner Liam.It was nice and you prove to know Havana and I respect that.From now on I won’t be annoying or provoking to you anymore
    A couple of things before I let this issue go The 95%of Cubans that you see in Galerias Paseo are just an small fraction of the 2 million that live in Havana.If you go there often enough you might see the same faces again and again.

    Also if it is true that Hermanos Amejeiras Hospital and Ramon Gonzalez Coro are part of the public health care System in Cuba, getting in there specially to Ramon Gonzalez Coro located in St 19 e/ 4 st and 6 st,Vedado is very hard.If you don’t have CUC that is the place to go for OB/GYN issues. Is usually reserved for people with “connections”.Many of the doctors who work at Cira Garcia work also at the CIMEQ and Gzalez Coro, just to let you know.

    Now just for the sake of fairness .Do you think that a “valid point of view” is the same for somebody who has the freedom to get in and out of the Island than somebody like Yoani or el El B from los Aldeanos or many others who are denied systematically to get in and out of their own country?

  23. Albert and Candido.
    Firstable thanks for your comments and kind regards.
    I get kind of emotional at times, I just would like to make a point, since I did not even knew I was “poor” until I started getting acces to the propaganda coming from the North, that you should have this and that and more. Later I realize what my father taught me, material things become obsolete if you are not able to function as a social being, care about yourself, others and the earth you live in.
    I write in first person “I” style, but I would rather think that I am voicing out the thousands like me that have been discriminate against in Cuba, but also outside Cuba, so we could try not to make the same mistake for future generations. It will be very hard, but we have to start now, so the children of the future could see a better world and appreciate knowlegde above the new brand product in the market.

Comments are closed.