Once again, a large swath of Nuevo Vedada saw its electricity cut off for almost eleven hours yesterday in order to replace worn-out electrical poles. I believe that in the end they replaced four. A great achievement really. As a result, the hard currency stores in our neighborhood — the majority — remained closed for the duration of the thinly-veiled blackout. If you needed to buy something, you had to travel far from home to find it.
There was electricity today, but La Mariposa was closed again, this time for more than two hours, because it was fumigation day. It was disconcerting to see all the employees of this establishment sitting in the park, patiently waiting for the smoke from the burnt petroleum they use as a fumigant to clear so that the store could re-open. This can take up to two hours.
I kept on walking in search of one of the two small hotels in the neighborhood. These were built to house patients from ALBA* countries, as well as their families, during their post-operative recoveries. Since this exchange has been suspended, they now serve as modest hotels whose guests are usually athletes. On the premises they have small but quite well-stocked stores.
I arrived at the Hotel Tulipán’s store at almost a quarter to ten, when it is scheduled to open. To pass the time, I decided to go to the cafe to have a coffee. The person at the counter apologized and told me that there were only two ceramic cups, which were being used at one of the tables, so he would have to serve it to me in a paper cup, if I was willing. I said that would be fine, but asked him why they had only two cups, considering this was a relatively new hotel. The problem, he told me, was that a request had been sent in, but the company had not yet responded. That’s the difference with private hotels, I told him, since the owner would have gone to buy more cups before they had run out.
I finally returned to the store. It was now a quarter after ten and they still were not open, even though through the glass doors I could see the employees standing around. There were now five of us waiting outside. The assistant manager arrived and an employee then opened the door to greet us, without looking at us or saying anything. A young man, who was also waiting and appeared to be in a hurry, asked her why they were still not open, and she, without even looking at him, said that the calculator was broken.
I continued on my journey and saw a kiosk which sold items for hard currency. I wanted to buy a big carton of juice to take to a sick friend. When I went to pay with a twenty, the employee calmly told me that I would have to come back later because he did not have enough change.
I returned home confused and frustrated at not being able to get anything I needed, thinking that it does not take a hurricane or an embargo to destroy this country. Sloth is taking care of that fast enough.
Translator’s note: A trade alliance of socialist or socialist-leaning Latin American countries, including Cuba and Venezuela.
November 7 2012