Plato Azul Especial

Remember that scene in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” when Charlie finds a golden ticket in his candy bar? The look on his face says it all.  That shiny piece of paper represented golden opportunities and promises of a better life.

Havana, circa summer 1993, the U.S. dollar was that golden ticket. That summer, Fidel Castro blessed the Yankee dollar as legal tender. He knew families in exile and abroad would send them by the eventual millions to help their loved ones better their quality of lives on the island, and by default, bolster his government that had lost its benefactor when the USSR broke apart.

The Cuban citizens who had a dollar pipeline could shop in the stores for tourists (if someone inside allowed them in), buy toothpaste, cookies, more soap, utensils, extra meat .. anything their government-issue ration booklets didn’t provide, which, by U.S. standards, was close to everything.

There were other ways to make dollars.  Otherwise law abiding citizens created a black market, “finding” supplies of merchandise, like boxes of Cuban cigars, to sell to tourists.   That summer, one family we met used their black market earnings to buy shiny black patent leather shoes for their young daughter. Their refrigerator was older than I was, and had three items inside.

Fast forward, spring 2008. In an effort to quell what might become a summer of discontent, Raul Castro has legalized cell phone ownership (though service might cost a few months’ peso-based salary), DVD players (finally, a respite from government programming) and made microwave ovens available (cooks a month’s chicken ration in less than four minutes).   People lined up opening day at some of the stores this week well supplied with wonder and curiosity, not money to spend.

Those who can buy, will.   They’ll be the ones with a pipeline.

And those who can’t?  

The Castro brothers’ decade-apart dance with the dollar and commu-capitalism can’t help but create a population of Haves and Have-Nots.

Isn’t that the very inequality La Revolucion promised to eliminate?








One Response

  1. pinch me again and pls pls tell me why this is an issue worth writing about, let alone thinking about.

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