Stuffed Toys

On the couch there’s a stuffed dog missing an eye and losing an ear. Thirty years ago he was the plaything of a little girl who now has two children. Neither of them is old enough to have experienced the ration market when it offered manufactured products. So when their mother explains that the dog was a “basic category” toy, they look at her as if she’s speaking Chinese.

For them, everything is different. Since they were small they’ve known that toys are only sold in hard currency. Sometimes when they go to the big market in Carlos III Street, they press their noses to the glass in front of a pink pony and a plastic house with a fireplace.

The two distinct generations are united by a similar unease. In her thirties she experienced the era of Soviet subsides and regulated distribution of everything… or almost everything. Her children, for their part, have lived in times of a dual currency system and scarcities. For her, Three Kings Day isn’t celebrated on 6 January, rather it was officially moved to July and given another name, but her children have seen the frantic rebirth of many traditions.

In the eighties the grandmother of that little girl with the stuffed dog whispered to her the story of Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. Once she grew up she taught her own offspring — openly — the ritual of the letter with requests and the water ready for the thirsty camels.

Today that girl of days past greets the dawn outside a toy store very different from those of her childhood. No employee will demand a ration book with coupons to tear out and checkboxes where the number assigned to each product is entered

Now there are convertible pesos — that hard currency she doesn’t receive her salary in — the only money that will give her children access to the dolls, the toy cars, or simply to some marbles.

She manages to buy a plastic flute and the tiniest stuffed dog. He has big floppy ears and blue eyes.

17 thoughts on “Stuffed Toys

  1. Thanks for the clarification Sandokan. Indeed I am related to Alfonso Hernandez-Cata, he was my husband’s grandfather. He died before my husband was born, but the family has kept his last name in his memory. My husband is unfortunately the last one to carry that name, as we have two daughters and no son. Another grand child, Uva de Aragon, a writer and journalis, has done a lot to keep his memory alive and his work current.

  2. Ximena,

    Well put, everything you said.

    Staying on topic or engaging in rational dialogue is very hard for someone irrational enough to support Castro.

    Atheist dictators, from Hitler to Pol Pot, have been some of the greatest mass murderers in history, but I do not spew bile at atheists because of it.

    In fact, I know some very nice atheists and respect their faith. The atheist fundamentalists who spew bile at other religions are another story.

    I have no idea why Marabu and Nick have to go back hundreds of years to spew bile at Christianity.

    Other than they are sick, hateful people who need to spew bile at others, which fits the profile of most Castro supporters.

  3. Cuban police seize toys that dissidents planned to donate to children
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/03/3850440/cuban-dissidents-arrested-in-attempt.html

    How can be good a scheme to search homes, steel money, toys, properties and jail the people living on them for the only crime to distribute those toys to poor children on January 6 the Feast of the Epiphany , when the three kings visited the newborn Jesus given him gifts of frankincense and myrrh. In the Spanish speaking countries that night the three wise men bring gifts to the children in the “Día de los Reyes.”


    The three Kings: Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, bringing gifts to baby Jesus.

    As far as is known, no regime law ban as illegal money, toys, food, chairs, computers, printers, bed sheets, towels or toilet paper. The regime is afraid of these items “powerful forces” to undermine its tyrannical system. Castroism has reached an all-time low.

  4. Ximena, I am sorry that you find my post inappropriate for this article. As a matter of fat is was intended from the previous one, but since a new one was in, I decided to published in this one. My next post will deal with the story at hand.

    Are you a relative of Alfonso Hernández Catá? He was a Cuban-Hispanic writer and diplomat, and is considered one of the best short story writers of the last century. He died in an accident in 1940, and in 1941 a short history price was established in his name.

  5. Nick, you are trying to go way away from my comment. I don’t see why I should go back to the Spanish colonization of the American continent. It is a known fact that they brought us their language, religion and culture. It is also a known fact that they massacred most local populations, but not all because they needed workers and servants. They notably killed their leaders so they would not resist their power (I am Bolivian, so I should know). But what I read in Yoani’s piece has nothing to do with Spain. Religion in Cuba is not only catholic, there were and are many others, some of African origin as you pointed out. Fidel Castro rejected religion, not our Spanish heritage (he is after all the son of a Spanish loyalist). Children born since 1959 only know his principles,which is what I call garbage, unless their parents, or grandparents taught them about religion (Christian or other). I have no doubt that Cubans kept their religion under wraps for a long time, and are discreet about it even today. I was brought up Catholic by my mother and as a free-thinker by my agnostic father. I have made my own choices and am certainly not rabid about either, so I believe in letting people decide what they want to believe in and BE FREE to do so, while being informed on all the options anyway.

    When I said some people come here to “spew their bile” I was expressing the anger I mentioned at having to read their rantings, not contradicting myself! Yoani’s article is so touching and beautiful, but none of you commented on that obvious fact. It is the true that children in Cuba have very little in the way of toys, clothing, food, and all the things other children take for granted in the US, Europe, and many other countries. So Yoani was right to tell us what little that mom could get for her child. We have relatives in Cuba, and we have relatives who travel to Cuba, so we are more aware of the situation than the tourists who stay a week there. It is always the children who suffer the most. And us adults just keep bickering.

  6. Ximena,
    Marabu is I think, referring to the fact that Spanish Conquisatadores butchered the native population of Cuba (amongst other parts of ‘The New World’) and they justified it largely by their belief in Christianity.
    You have managed to respond without mention of this historical episode.
    Instead you state:
    ‘Marabu is a loner who is in terrible company!’
    and
    ‘Let’s hope he wakes up one day and at least admits that people are entitled to their spirituality, even if he is unable to think beyond the garbage that he was fed since birth.’

    Are you trying to imply that this massacre in the name of Christianity did not occur ??
    Is this what you mean when you refer to the ‘…garbage that he was fed since birth’ ???

    Please explain what you mean Ximena.

  7. Thank you observer, but I was well aware of the fact that Castro was not able to kill religion in the heart of the majority of Cubans. Marabu is a loner who is in terrible company! Let’s hope he wakes up one day and at least admits that people are entitled to their spirituality, even if he is unable to think beyond the garbage that he was fed since birth. Pobre hombrre.

  8. @sandokan
    You say “Most probably Progressives will say that North Korea dynastical tyranny hasn’t implemented true communism yet”

    Do you think a new social system can be built overnight?
    The United States has abolished slavery 150 years ago?
    Did it implment the “true capitalism”?

    In 150 years not even a reliable banking system, one of the foundations of capitalism, has been created in North America. And the slavery still pops-up in disguise (google up “racial profiling”)

  9. @Ximena
    You say ” one day all Cuban children will know what is El Dia de Reyes, what is religion and God”.

    Why do you refer to the future?

    Many travelers to Cuba report they they have seen religious objects such as iron nails, glas of water, coins, cigars and candles placed in the corners of the house to worship the Gods. No repression by the authorities is known for practicing religion in Cuba.

    People can also celebrate ” El Dia de Reyes” in churches and in their homes. This is a tolerated practice although Christianity in Cuba is an ugly reminder of the holocaust of the Taino Indians

  10. Re: Nick’s display of historical ignorance:

    Germans had to join the Hitler youth to survive, just like Cubans had to join the Young Communists.

    Doesn’t mean they believed in any of it.

    The concept of dictatorship seems way, way beyond this guy’s mental capacity.

    That’s the problem with living in a rich democracy for too long, you take everything for granted and get fat in body and brain.

  11. So I see Nick also follows that long line of great anti-Christian thinkers:
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Charles Manson, Kim Jong Un.

    Although religious repression is lower than in the robolution’s early years, most public non-Castro worship in Cuba is still illegal or discouraged by Castro.

    If there is one authoritarian religious cult that is not flourishing in Cuba, except as official propaganda, it is atheism.

  12. Ximena,

    You state:
    ‘I am too polite to make any comment on the two previous comments made by Sandokan and Marabu’
    but then state:
    ‘Don’t these people have a better place in which to spew their bile?’

    Welcome to this forum and congratulations on managing to completely contradict yourself in your very first paragraph. You will fit in well.

    If you choose to believe that an authoritarian, all seeing, supernatural power is the boss of all creation that’s entirely up to you.
    Everyone should be free to choose which authoritarian, supernatural power they place their trust in if thats what they wanna spend their time doing.

    People in Cuba are totally free to do this (contrary to some of the misleading information posted on here for propaganda purposes).
    It is my clear understanding that previous discouragement of religious worship in Cuba has fallen by the wayside along with some of the other more ridiculous revolutionary dogma.
    Cuba now seems to be a frequent stopping off point for any wrinkly old Pope that feels the need for a bit of Caribbean sunshine and a chance to meet the famous Castro brothers.
    (I do think this remarkably normal Argentinian Fella is actually a far better Pope than all those lying, scheming, money grabbing, sex fiend popes of centuries gone by and may very well shake Catholicism up for the better (and thankfully, unlike his immediate predecessor, he’s never been a member of the Hitler Youth movement).

    Yoruba and Christian worship now flourish in Cuba.
    As do, praise the lord, atheism and agnosticism.

  13. Ximena,

    Castro’s atheist tyranny did not turn Cubans into atheists.

    A lot pretended to be to stay out of trouble, but all that has changed in recent years.

    Although many Cubans are still afraid to be seen at church, most celebrate Christ in private.

    Marabu enjoys being disgusting, it’s part of his internet shock culture. Bile is all he has to offer.

    He follows a long-line of great anti-Christian thinkers: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Charles Manson, Kim Jong Un.

    He is in good company.

  14. Sandokan,

    That’s the irony of communism. The only successful experiments have been in capitalist countries.

    There are still communes in the USA, where they can take advantage of freedom and the capitalist marketplace to make their communes work and keep them happy.

    There have been no Communist government success stories. No happy Soviet or Chinese or Cuban communes. Just misery and attempts to flee from “paradise”.

    Castro’s new private farmers are a lot happier.

  15. I am too polite to make any comment on the two previous comments made by Sandokan and Marabu, but I am entitled to say that their inappropriate remarks make me extremely angry. Don’t these people have a better place in which to spew their bile?

    Ioani, your article of today is simply sublime and does not deserve to receive such comments from jealous, bitter, ignorant people. I hope one day all Cuban children will know what is El Dia de Reyes, what is religion and God, and that they will be free to chose how to think, what to believe in, and who to elect as their leaders. Please keep writing and speaking your mind: You are Cuba, not them. My best wishes to you for 2014.

  16. Most probably Progressives will say that North Korea dynastical tyranny hasn’t implemented true communism yet. In their view “real communism” is always one step away from being implemented. What will be the next step to implement it? How many millions more will need to be killed to pull off their communist utopia? The future doesn’t look bright for their utopia.

  17. There is no world-wide unity on the date of Children’s Day
    Most countries celebrate it on the 1sth June. 20th November comes second.

    I don’t know why Cuba (with Panama and Venezuela) celabate it on the third Sunday of July.
    But I know one thing: any date is better then the christian 6th of January.

    Church and children – these two worlds do not fit.

    I wonder why in the recent years hundreds of pedofile priests around the world have been brought before courts, but none in Cuba? My theory is that there were abuses in Cuba, like in so many other countries, but cuban government was to cowardish to bring them on the daylight. I don’t like the official cuban bootlicking of any pope that may come across.

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