Monthly Archives: March 2010

There Is Neither Flour Nor Shame

What can you expect from a government that can’t even guarantee the flour for our daily bread? The lines at Cuban bakeries resemble images from the Second World War. And with complete lack of respect, a government official says, right on television, “There is flour, the problem is that people are eating more bread than usual.” What one can infer, continuing the official’s mockery, is that the cold wave gave Cubans a voracious appetite for the loaf. Something to suggest the scientists might add to their next tropical investigations.

It is difficult, and sad, to see Cubans, out of pure fear, putting up with several hours of waiting and uncertainty, to get a few ounces of bread. Some, wary, at times desperate, angry, say a few words they immediately regret. They know a prison cell would be worse. They know that standing next to them might be a collaborator (a snitch), who will rat on them to the authorities as a way to assure their own bread. In this country you have to “know” a lot to survive.

When the bread comes out of the oven, the mobilization starts, disorganized shoving, shouts for some clandestinely available bread. Someone from the end sidles closer with a full bag. It’s a family member of the bakers or a potentate who with great luck bought to sell at a premium price. But as a masterful move, and to distract the eyes from the man who moved up from the end, they open the window and with a war cry announce they will begin selling. Everyone shouts, offended if someone tries to join an acquaintance in the line or tries to sneak into a possible gap with the objective of cutting in; but the violators don’t listen, the insults don’t matter, hunger is worse than shame, and they keep on pushing.

In minutes, the sale if over. Without saying a word, they close the windows. The bodies return to their inert positions, pressing together to fend off the cold. Again the words escape and are self-censored. Again the looks of fear.

And so continues the long wait for this town of children whom nobody wanted.