Saturday, October 5, 2013

In Cuba Everything's for Sale... Even 'Baby Ounces'

Yoani Sanchez Award-winning Cuban blogger

In Cuba Everything's for Sale... Even 'Baby Ounces'
Posted: 10/04/2013 3:14 pm

He has sewn a double lining into the bottom of his pants. Big enough to
hold the milk powder he sneaks out of the factory. So far he's never had
any problems, but every now and then they bring in a new guard and he
avoids taking anything home for a few days. His work at the Dairy
Complex has never been professionally interesting to him, but he
wouldn't exchange it for any other. To his place as a packer he owes his
daughter's quinceañero celebration, the new roof on his house, the
motorbike he rides around the city. He has a job envied by many. An
occupation someone with just a sixth grade education can do, but one
coveted by academics, experts and even scientists. It's a workplace
where you can steal something.

Ingenuity and illegality are combined when it comes time to make a
living. Hoses rolled up under a shirt carry alcohol out of the
distilleries. Cigar rollers calculate when the security camera looks
away to slip a cigar under the desk. Bakers add extra yeast to make the
dough rise disproportionately so they can resell the flour. Taxi drivers
are experts in fiddling with the meter; clerks steal a little bit from
each tube of liquid detergent; farmers add a few small stones to each
bag of beans... so they weigh more. Creativity in the quest of
embezzling the State and the customer stretches across the island.

However, of all the elaborate and clever ways to "struggle" that I have
known, there is one that stands out as remarkable. I heard it from a
friend who gave birth to an underweight baby at the Havana maternity
hospital. Both the child and the mother had to stay in the medical
center until the baby gained almost a pound. The process was slow and
the new mother was desperate to go home. The bathroom had no water, the
food was terrible, and every day her family had to make great sacrifices
to bring her meals and clean clothes. To top it off, my friend looked at
the other low birthweight babies and they were putting on ounces
rapidly. She expressed her desperation to another patient who responded,
laughing, "Boy, are you stupid! You don't know that the nurse sells the
ounces?" That lady in the white coat who walked the halls every morning
charged for entering a higher weight into the medical record. She was
selling non-existent baby ounces. What a business!

After hearing that story, nothing surprises me any more, I am never
shocked by the many ways in which Cubans "struggle" for survival.

4 October 2013

Source: "In Cuba Everything's for Sale... Even 'Baby Ounces' | Yoani
Sanchez" -

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