Our daily problem

I go out with several sweaters and a very old scarf wrapped around my neck. The errand is short, but with the temperature so low every step I take is a great sacrifice. People beside me in the street are equally “disguised” and I even see someone who appears to have a bed blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Although in the short trip from home to the bakery I don’t see anyone wearing a nice coat, I see that popular inventiveness does not end when the thermometers fall. The Soviet-era raincoats have been dusted off, with their enormous buttons and now faded colors. Others, those who don’t even have something to cover themselves, have simply stayed home.

I go to a place where they sell bread outside the rationed market and a baguette costs a whole day’s wages. Curiously, many of those I have seen on the road, with their peculiar and improvised costumes, are headed in the same direction I am. As we get nearer I confirm that everyone is going after the little food that has kept us in suspense for several weeks now. A few feet from the place, someone ahead of us raises the cry, “There isn’t any more!”, throwing a real bucket of cold water on us. I turn around and go home. Tomorrow will be another day without breakfast.

The arrival of these winds from the north has coincided not only with the disappearance of bread, but also with the flight of the milk. As if winter had affected the ovens and frozen the cows’ udders. Although on TV they announce that the production targets for the precious milk have been exceeded, they deny us the solitary cup of coffee or the insipid tea every morning. These are times to jerk yourself awake without looking at the table, to tell the kids not to ask questions, and to put aside work, the blog, friends, life, to devote yourself entirely to the pursuit of a piece of bread and a glass of milk. Time to drag ourselves through the dust of shortages and lines and because to break this contemptible cycle and fly we need—more than wings—the fuel of food.


33 thoughts on “Our daily problem

  1. And a couple of other things, is it your intention then to go back to the good old days of Batista style government and turn your wonderful sovereign country back into an American Brothel, gambling den and crackhouse.

    Will you be content when you are ruled once again by a foreign power, together with the Mafia? Lansky may be dead now but there are many ready to take his place.

    It seems that you have lost all self respect in a futile attempt to gain some kind of fame and noteriety in order to serve your American backers, and your backers you must recognise are both morally and fincially bankrupt, you both have the same credibilaty, none!

    As the old saying goes “El burro sabe mas que tu”

    Yours truly,

    Richard Bough

  2. How strange Yoani that you espouse democracy and freedom of speech, the common right to state ones point of view, and yet a view point other than your own is site.

    I look forward to your response, of course if ther isn’t one from you then you prove my earlier comment that you are indeed a puppet of the US propoganda machine.

    Yours truly,

    Richard Bough.

  3. If/when changes are to come, the people will be happy at first, and I advice them to get out of their country ( especially if they are educated or hardworking). In Russia and Easter Europe things got ugly after the system changed.

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  5. The Communist Regimen put in jail this poor black Cuban for just saying that he was hungry, imagine what happens when you are critical of the Dictatorship in a more direct way. What Cuba have is a fifty years Dictatorship and a Government that never have permitted a free election.

  6. PS. The temperature is so low you needed several sweaters and a scarf?

    Whether life in Cuba is horrible or not, that’s a rather hard sell when the temperature in Havana right now is 17 celsius, with the highs for the week averaging out to 25 celsius. Are you for real? I walked around the city today, it was -1, I had a sweatshirt on, and lo, I live to tell the tale.

  7. Dear Mrs. Sanchez,

    In light of your questions put to President Obama and then to Raul Castro, I think it might be enlightening to see if you might answer some questions yourself. After all, that only seems fair.

    So, let’s get to it. Why did you feel the need to fabricate an incident months ago where you claimed to be ‘kidnapped’? Sorry, perhaps slightly blunt, but then you’re not averse to such rhetoric yourself.

    Firstly, while you may classify the Cuban government as incompetent, they are far from stupid enough to come and kidnap you, who became America’s media darling because you told them everything they wanted to hear (something you routinely accuse your own government of doing to others. How odd.), and bring further attention to your ‘plight’.

    But more importantly, I’m still waiting to see these horrific bruises you received all over. You apparently suffered for a weekend, yet show up on Monday without a mark on you. You then said you had some, but they were on your ‘buttocks’. Did they spank you or viciously beat your all over your body? And the apparent pulling of your hair. Let’s be honest, I have a full head of hair, if a grown man was ripping patches out of it, it would still be noticeable. Yet when confronted on this issue, you said you can’t see it with all your hair. Brilliant. And this was all confirmed by the BBC, which, I think we can agree, is an independent news source in this situation.

    Mrs. Sanchez, these are blatant contradictions. Your account was at best sensationalist, at worst a babbling publicity grab full of lies. I’m leaning towards the latter, to be frank.

    However your life story is hardly without holes either. You registered in Switzerland not as a graduated Philologist, but as someone with ‘pre-university’ education. Then you come back to Cuba. Why? You carry on and on about Cuba being this horrific land with ideological walls and suffering, and yet you went right back there. And you took your son too! As a woman who now spends her life complaining about how awful the place she lives is, why would you move back there from a country that is consistently ranked in the top 5 countries to live in? Didn’t you want a better life for yourself and your son? Or was your stay in Switzerland not what you expected?

    Another thing that doesn’t make sense. We’re told that it’s impossible for Cubans to speak out, and that doing so results in prison time. Yet here you are, known to all, apparently even ‘kidnapped’ once, not in prison, still blogging, and with dozens of links. That doesn’t add up, but then, little about you does.

    And now we come to the last bit of my post, the length of which I apologise for. Cuba remains under economic sanctions from the United States of America. But you’re happy to sell a book of yours through Paypal, something you’re apparently unable to access due to the economic sanctions. How are you doing this? Further you’ve copyrighted your blog, something which also is impossible due to the economic sanctions, and yet you manage it anyways.

    Even in this blog alone. You say ‘These are times to jerk yourself awake….. and to put aside work, the blog, friends, life, to devote yourself to the pursuit of a single piece of bread and glass of milk.’ Yet here’s the blog with a brand new entry.

    I’d dearly love to think that you’re speaking the truth, which is why I’ve bothered to come on here and ask these questions of you in the first place. Because if you aren’t, and your life and the tales you spin on this blog are truly the work of fiction they so clearly appear to be, then I feel FAR more sorry for you than you intend people to be.

    Please note I’ve said nothing to insinuate that Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, or the Cuban government are perfect beings or anything of the sort. I simply feel that gross misinformation on this level is disgusting beyond compare, and I hope you can refute these quite obvious flaws.



  8. When is the world-at-large going to take a good hard look at Cuba and what Castro has done to “his” people for the last +50 years, and take decisive action to stop all of this, finally?

  9. The way Cuba will pay for things is the way every other nation on the face of the planet pays for things. By making, producing and selling things to generate revenue. Until that happens, there will be no payment to anyone.

    I am completely unable to see how the dichotomy of the Cuban whatever-you-want-to-call-it Economy can justify itself. Selling tourism and all-inclusive resorts on the one hand, and subjugating its own citizens to a complete lack of capitalism on the other? How does that make sense? I don’t get it.

  10. But the question is: how are the Cubans going to pay for anything? Sucres? As a frustrated Venezuelan said of the currency recently:
    “[Chávez] never knows anything. Does he know that under his government dependence on oil has heightened to such an extent that even the olive-green underpants for the revolutionary army are imported? Does he know that the courageous imported underpants are paid with gringos’ dollars instead of that charade called the Sucre of the ALBA? Try to pay the Dominican Republic for a sac of black beans with such stuff, and wait and see what they will tell.”
    I’m afraid Castro won’t be able to use the “charade” either.

  11. HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Houston’s port has a Cuba connection
    By JENALIA MORENO Jan. 15, 2010, 10:17PM

    “For the first time in nearly half a century, a shipping line will provide weekly transport from Houston’s docks to Cuba. Local officials view this as the beginning of increased exports to a Latin American nation that still faces a partial trade embargo with the U.S.
    “What we’re witnessing is the important first step,” said Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.

    Shipping company CMA CGM of Marseille, France, recently began hauling food, medical products and other items allowed by the U.S. government to two Cuban ports from Houston. Every week, the vessels will stop in Kingston, Jamaica, before moving on to Havana and Santiago de Cuba from Houston’s Bayport terminal.”

    “In 2008, $143 million worth of food and agricultural products moved to Cuba through Texas ports, nearly 50 percent higher than in 2007, said Parr Rosson, extension economist of the Texas Agrilife Extension Service. But exports from the U.S. to Cuba slowed because of hurricanes that pummeled the island in 2008; the decline in prices of nickel, one of Cuba’s exports; and a decline in tourism because of the global economic slowdown.

    In 2008, 274,000 tons of goods were shipped from Houston to Cuba. That’s a “minuscule” amount of the port’s business, Kunz said, since 225 million tons typically move through the port annually. But the port hopes to expand that business.

    With the Obama administration already easing some of the restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba, Moseley said: “We’re very optimistic that the embargo could be lifted during the first term of the administration, if not sooner. The effect is going to be tremendous.”

    If the embargo is lifted, he predicted Houston companies would sell goods for Cuba’s energy business and the rebuilding of its roads and homes.”


  12. I have been a frequent visitor to Cuba. This is my first post here. I have been fortunate as a tourist to be able to have a real Cuban friend. I worry daily that something might prevent us from communicating. I hope she does not mind but I am taking the liberty of copying here one of her messages to me so that maybe others who are visiting Cuba might have a better understanding of how life is outside of the fantasy resort world. It is not about the cold or lack of food… for me it is deeper than that and I may be naive but I pray that “this” might end soon and she will be free to share her dreams. This is what she writes:

    Its interesting what you say about reading some messages at “Generation Y” blog. I can tell you something; the official newspapers here, television, radio, magazines etc etc speak only about a nice and wonderful Cuba, the more dignity country in the planet, all is very good here and all is very bad outside our country. When all this finish (if “this” is going to finish one day, I guess not) the future generation are not going to know (if they learn history from officials papers and programs) the real life in Cuba after 1959. They would never know the real way this generation lived and the problems we had. BUT, if you go and read the blogs at generation y, they will have a very close idea of everything. Just one person can speak more about our reality that all government and communication at all. Of course, Cuban can not read those articles. I had the opportunity to read lot of them, you know me already a little bit and I guess you imagine I’m a bit of rebel too….so I found the way to have them (a friend of mine that could enter into the blog copied me some articles to a word document and attached them in to a message to a yahoo mail that I had before….) and I was reading them during the way back home (in the sly, jejejejejej). It’s nice to read something like that, real reality, when you can not find anything else Of course, if they take you with that…It’s a big problem.
    So, the message is that if you want to learn about our society, this is there where you should looking for…;)
    For a person like me, I have never been out of the country (like most of the Cubans) the entire universe is a mystery. And, like all forbidden things, this is something I would like to do one day. This is a kind of dream. Just go out and see what there is outside this island. I can tell you the idea afraid me a little (I guess is normal taking into account what official people say here, everything is violence, drugs, cruel capitalism, etc) But something inside me tells: go and discover and give another future to your child.
    I already did some crazy things ( I can explain you about it in another message) trying to go out of this country. And this dream has not begun yet.  My father always had the dream of have a car, a normal car, an old car, any car. And he did not have it. It’s very expensive a car for a normal worker, it’s very hard to go out, and sometimes  it’s very hard to get a very simple thing here. I’m not complaining, I’m not the kind of person complaining about everything, I try to think positive and to enjoy. But I’m not blind…

  13. Jeanette,

    Welcome to this site and thank you for your post. I was wondering if you could share with us more about your trip to Cuba. Where did you stay, what was the food like, what did you do, did you notice any restrictions on what you could do, did you ever feel uncomfortable, were your accomodations acceptable, would you go back? Your observations would be very welcome here.

  14. Hi there
    Great site – after just returning from a 2 week trip to Cuba, I realise we had no idea of the reality of the place – thanks for sharing your experiences and enlightening us! Roll on the inevitable changes – sooner rather than later!

  15. Panfilo was a case of clear political intimidation and it shows how scared the regime is of anything that could cause street unrest.



    Its origins dated back to the European contredanse, which was an internationally popular form of music and dance of the late 18th century. It was brought to Santiago de Cuba by French colonists fleeing the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s (Carpentier 2001:146). The earliest Cuban contradanza of which a record remains is “San Pascual Bailón,” written in 1803 (Orovio 1981:118). This work shows the contradanza in its embryonic form, lacking characteristics that would later set it apart from the contredanse. The time signature is 2/4 with two sections of eight bars, repeated- AABB (Santos 1982).

    During the first half of the 19th century, the contradanza dominated the Cuban musical scene to such an extent that nearly all Cuban composers of the time, whether composing for the concert hall or the dance hall, tried their hands at the contradanza (Alén 1994:82). Among them, Manuel Saumell (1817-1870) is the most noted (Carpentier 2001:185-193).

    The contradanza, when played as dance music, was performed by the orquesta típica, an ensemble composed of two violins, two clarinets, a contrabass, a cornet, a trombone, an ophicleide, paila and a güiro (Alén 1994:82).

    The contradanza in 6/8 evolved into the clave, the criolla and the guajira. From the contradanza in 2/4 came the (danza) habanera and the danzón (Carpentier 2001:147).

    The danza dominated Cuban music in the second half of the 19th century, though not as completely as the contradanza had in the first half. Two famous Cuban composers in particular, Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905) and Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), used the danza as the basis of some of their most memorable compositions. And, in spite of competition from the danzón, which eventually won out, the danza continued to be composed as dance music into the 1920s. By this time, the charanga had replaced the orquesta típica of the 19th century (Alén 1994:82- example: “Tutankamen” by Ricardo Reverón).

    The music and dance of the contradanza/danza are no longer popular in Cuba, but are occasionally featured in the performances of professional or amateur folklore groups.


    Haiti, el primer país de afrodescendientes en alcanzar la democracia en el mundo, ayudó a la independencia de Estados Unidos, en 1779 con 750 soldados que se auto denominaron “voluntaire de Saint -Dominque”. Años mas tarde, el General Pètion, entonces presidente de Haiti, apoyo con armas y soldados a Simon Bolivar, quien gracias a esa ayuda, alcanzó las independencias de Venezuela y Colombia.

    Esa vocacion democratica Haitiana se explica, en parte, porque el pais estaba dirigido por una elite intelectual educada en la cultura Francesa. Para la epoca, los niveles socio economicos de la poblacion eran aceptables, teniendo en cuenta las limitaciones tecnológicas del momento.

    No es el momento de analizar porque el pais colapsó en los siglos IXX y XX. Pero si es la hora de recordar que los Haitianos nos ayudaron a ser libres.

    Por ahora es fundamental apoyar los organismos internacionales con donaciones, para suplir las escaceses de la poblacion, y recuperar la infraestructura en el corto plazo.

    Pero lo mas importante, en el largo plazo, es reeducar las generaciones venideras y elevarlas al nivel que merece su digno pasado.

    Todos tenemos una deuda con Haiti ahora y durante los próximos años.

    Divulge esta obligación a sus amigos, distribuyendo esta nota entre sus contactos, por medio de Internet, Facebook, Twiter, o simple fotocopias.


    Edgar Giraldo Alzate

  18. WASHINGTON POST: Cuba cold snap kills 26 at psychiatric hospital
    The Associated Press
    Friday, January 15, 2010; 4:02 PM

    HAVANA — “Twenty-six patients at Cuba’s top hospital for the mentally ill died this week during a cold snap, the government said Friday.

    Human rights leaders cited negligence and a lack of resources as factors in the deaths, and the Health Ministry launched an investigation that it said could lead to criminal proceedings.

    A Health Ministry communique read on state television blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in Boyeros,” the neighborhood where Havana’s Psychiatric Hospital is located.

    It said most of the deaths were from natural causes like old age, respiratory infections and complications from chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular problems.”


    MIAMI HERALD: Activist: 20 patients at Havana Psychiatric Hospital died in cold
    A human rights activist said at least 20 patients at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital died from hypothermia when temperatures dropped.




    REUTERS: Venezuelans yell “Welcome to Cuba” as lights dim

    CARACAS (Reuters) – School children studied in gloomy classrooms and shopkeepers strained their eyes to count cash as electricity rationing began in Venezuela on Wednesday, presenting a challenge to President Hugo Chavez’s popularity.

    “A long drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon has caused a sharp fall in water levels at the hydroelectric dams that provide the bulk of Venezuela’s electricity.

    But coming hot on the heels of a sharp devaluation of the bolivar currency that hurts savers, the staggered four hour blackouts every 48 hours have angered Venezuelans used to plentiful energy in one of the world’s top oil exporters.”

    “The blackouts are supposed to follow a schedule, hitting each neighborhood every two days until at least May, but on the first day authorities seemed to follow little pattern.

    Officials said some schools and small health clinics will be affected, but that large education centers, hospitals, media outlets, trains will not suffer the cuts.

    Street lights in some zones may go off but Javier Alvarado, who runs the Caracas Electricity corporation, said not in poor neighborhoods where crime is highest.

    The cuts, which trapped some people in elevators, have also forced the baseball league to reschedule games, disrupting an activity only matched as a national pastime by shopping.

    That too is hit, with most malls being ordered to open later in the morning. Government workers are among the few to benefit from the rationing, with public offices opening only between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the next few months.”


  20. Just as Castro their objective is to create poor people. To eliminate middle class and ban the rich. So once they are left with only the poor create a situation of total dependency for everything. That’s how the paternalistic state works.

    Once that is obtained then Chavez will have total control of the people.

    I am hoping is not too late for them and the opposition could unite and kick Chavez out before he goes even deeper destroying a democracy in Venezuela.

  21. Based on this blog’s message, I would like to see if the following principle of Communism or Socialism, (or whatever you want to call it) applies. “To each person,
    according to his need”.

    If the above is true, I would like to see the “Ration Book” of Fidel, Raúl and the rest of the “hierarchy” of the Cuban Communist Party.

    I wonder if any of these people ever walk under the burning sun to go to the store to shop, if they do, would they find there is no bread for them.

  22. Oh, it’s already reached that point! The BBC recently had an item on coffee. Venezuela used to be a considerable exporter, now it doesn’t produce enough for its on needs and processing plants are idle. The are importing petrol. And exporting it to Iran. Power-cuts through lack of investment. They’ve been running hydro plants designed to average 7.5 GW at nearly 9 and wonder why they’re running out of water. 20,000 sacked oil workers and they wonder why production has plummeted. Anyone who claims Fidel for a “grandfather” can’t be much concerned for the welfare of his people. Of course, Lula has described Hugo as a “brother” which makes you fear the worst! Hugo’s main contribution to socialism has been to add massive, random, free-enterprise violence to the mixture.

  23. Iain

    If Venezuela continues with Chavez there will be a point when Venezuela will change from been an exporter of oil to be and importer of oil!
    We have already seen shortages in Venezuela of eggs. Etc. That is the way their system work, as to have people worry into what will they eat and not how to get rid of a system that prohibits free expression. Hope is not too late for them.

    When it gets to that point just the same way it was with the sugar for Cuba and the Castro regime. This people do not know how to create only know how to destroy.

  24. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! Using my notebook down at the “Wellington” inn has caused something to misfire! The “Anónimo” contribution below is from Iain (UK).

  25. Actually, I published a short piece on the Sucre last year (attached). It should be noted that, officially the VEB has dropped by 87% against a weak dollar* since Chávez came to power (more than 90% on the black market) which is the steepest fall in Venezuelan history and close to that of the original Sucre. Although the price of oil is below its peak, Chávez is till getting eight times as many dollars per barrel as in 1999. As his economy collapses about his ears, and all his currency is needed to import staples such as coffee that he used to produce in abundance, it is unlikely that Hugo will continue to be able to spend more on Castro than he is on education. Things might get difficult on Cuba.
    *This is presenting arch-enemy Colombia with the opposite problem. The inexorable rise of their peso against the dollar is worrying exporters hugely.
    Original letter:
    Dear Sir,
    The auguries are less than auspicious. Ecuador abandoned the sucre in favour of the US dollar in 2000, after it had lost 67% of its value during the previous year, but it is now to be revived as a “virtual currency” for a trade of rice from Venezuela to Cuba. This is an entertaining conceit, with the former country desperately short of “real” currency (not to mention rice), while the latter has none whatsoever. Since the Castros have yet to reimburse any creditor, there is a sense in which the currency they use not pay this time makes little difference – but the whole farce raises some entertaining possibilities. Perhaps, for example, Cuba’s more desperate European creditors will agree to be paid in Chavez’s scrip? And it is notable that, while the people of Honduras are punished by the EU for holding an election, taxpayers money is shovelled into the Cuban black hole as a reward for refusing to do so. But here, surely, enough is enough. Raul “The Terrible” Castro’s thugs continue to beat up the wives and mothers of the political prisoners that have been languishing in his Gulags since 2003, so, when Spain takes over the Presidency of the European Council next year, it should insist that any contribution to this tyranny is strictly “virtual.” The billionaire dictators can always spend it in Venezuela.
    Sincerely, Iain


    NY TIMES: Chavez to Use Virtual Currency for Some Trade
    Published: January 14, 2010

    CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — “Venezuela plans to start using a new virtual currency this week to facilitate trade with a bloc of allies in Latin America and the Caribbean that President Hugo Chavez has assembled to counter U.S. influence in the region.
    Chavez has hailed the electronic currency — dubbed the Sucre and valued at $1.25 — as a unique means of helping Venezuela, Cuba and other allied countries reduce their dependence on the U.S. dollar for commerce.”

    “It is to be used between members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America, or ALBA, a leftist bloc that also includes Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Venezuela and Cuba started the group as a socialist-oriented trade alliance in 2004.

    Analysts say the electronic trading mechanism won’t significantly diminish the reliance of ALBA members on the U.S. dollar because commerce within the bloc is minimal.”


  27. Remember Panfilo? He was sentenced to jail for publicly criticizing the lack of food on the island yelling “Jama, jama” (Food, food), in front of the TV cameras during a live television interview on rap music.

    If the regime hasn’t condemn him, who will prevent the other Panfilos from standing in front of a camera and starting to shout for everything Cubans lack: Food! Future! Freedom!

  28. So much for the triumphs of the revolution.
    So that people could die of starvation healthy and educated!

    Well said.

    This will be one of the many lasting legacies of the misery that was the Cuban Usurpation. I wouldn’t even dignify it by calling it a revolution. Thanks for nothing, Fidel and your half-wit brother Raul. At least you won’t be able to control how historians write about your murderous tyranny and your crimes. The whole world sees you for what you are. A couple of power-hungry Murderers and Criminals. In one hundred years, you will be forgotten, the monuments you built to yourselves destroyed and, hopefully, your private island liberated and prosperous once again. How does it feel to be such failures at the end of your lives? What do you have to show for yourselves as you make your exit? How many people did you destroy? How about that for a reflection, Fidel. Why don’t you write about that topic you ignorant coward.

  29. ***
    What a bad day! Cold, no food, no future, no liberty. Thanks for nothing, Comrade Fidel.
    Que dia mala! Frio, no comida, no futuro, no libertad. Gracias por nada, Comrado Fidel.
    John Bibb

  30. Hey anonimo you are like the dog w/ two liver that got w/out any. Freedom is something that you don’t add quire , is something that you fight for. And i tell you as Cuban and citizen of the word i enjoy my freedom.My Brother does the same!

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