Eight in the morning and the rails of the station at Factor and Tulipán still have the freshness of the dawn. The only train, coming from San Antonio de los Baños, is delayed. The elderly, seated on the walls, resell the newspapers bought very early and offer, as well, cigarettes at retail. This week they suffered a tough setback with the announcement that the distribution, on the ration book, of the packs of Titans and Aroma has come to an end. Bad news for those on the lowest rung of our informal market, those who sell their own cigarette ration to survive.
Among the absurdities of the centralized market in Cuba, was that only those born before 1955 received the rationed cigarettes. In my family, my father had an allotment but my mother, three years younger, got nothing. Half joking half serious, a friend told me that in the future they would deliver the final pack of subsidized cigarettes to a long-lived Cuban who had been born in the middle of the twentieth century. Can you imagine the ceremony? Flags waving, trumpets sounding, a ceremonial marching battalion approaching the ancient one and presenting him with the last rationed cigarettes.
For better or worse this is not going to happen. These who were the youngest when they started to receive subsidized nicotine, are just now entering their sixth decade of life. Those of us who never benefited from this supply feel that today there is one less thing to throw in our faces. I believe, however, that someone should compensate the elderly at the Tulipán station, along with all those the length and breadth of this island who shore up their lives with this little bit of marketing.