With the end of the year the price of pork soars, pickpockets ramp up their activities and inter-provincial transportation is a dirty word. We discovered that as December 31 nears, the lines to buy a ticket lengthen and on the highway it becomes more difficult to hitch a ride. On the roads out of Havana, individuals or entire families pile up, loaded with suitcases. Many of them return to their home towns to celebrate the last night of 2009. They return, for a few days, to the place they left behind due to financial difficulties, work or marriage.
While the purchase of thousands of Yutong buses, some years ago, was intended to solve transportation in Cuba, moving from one place to another on the Island is still an odyssey. A ticket from the capital to the province of Camaguey can cost half a month’s wages, and condemn us to the narrow seats of these Chinese buses, irregular air conditioning, and the blaring sound of reggaeton from their horns. To these inconveniences, add the checkpoints on the highway, which popular mischief has baptized CAT scans because they are capable of finding a package of shrimp hidden between the plump breasts of a buxom old woman. By the end of the year, the shady dealing of the black market peaks and the police make a killing confiscating, fining, and even keeping what they’ve taken from the intrepid merchants of cheese, lobster, meat, milk and eggs.
On both sides of the road connecting one province with another, one sees the outstretched hands offering bills, blowing in the wind. Those who couldn’t even afford a ticket for the train stand anywhere along the highway, hoping someone will stop. There one sees the blue of a twenty, and further on two fifties; a girl waves only a ten, so she won’t have a chance if she doesn’t raise her offer, or raise her skirt a little. Luck smiles on a few when a tourist car comes along, needing a guide because of the lack of signage on the roads. But foreign visitors, fearing assault, prefer couples, or women with children. So men have to wait for truck or a cart that wants to take them.
At the end of the day, several of these improvising passengers will be seated at the table in a small house, or preparing yucca for the St. Sylvester dinner. When the first sun of the new year dawns, they will be back on the highway, raising a hand which, now, probably no longer has bills to show.