Rechargeable Lamps

By Yoani Sanchez


An uncertain summer awaits us, where they announce power cuts, higher prices and where there is even a prediction of an emigration stampede. Many Cubans, however, faced with the dilemma of solving their daily problems or trying to change something, prefer to concentrate on personal survival. They organize an escape from the national borders, evade the laws or, what amounts to the same thing, turn to crime. There are not only those who climb through the window of a warehouse at night or grab the backpack of an innocent tourist, but also the warehouseman who alters invoices or the custodian who breaks the seal of the container he is protecting. There is a socially accepted way of breaking the law that consists of stealing from the State. It includes the waiter who adds to the prices or introduces goods into the restaurant that he purchased himself to sell as if they were “of the house” and the shopkeeper who changes the list of customers at the ration market so he will have leftover goods.

The line of illegality also extends to the hotel desk clerk who, in cahoots with the manager, rents a room off the register, the taxi driver who makes a trip without turning on the meter, or the lathe operator who produces a piece “outside” the production plan. The customs officer who lets prohibited objects through, the police who don’t impose a fine, the housing official who speeds up an application, the teacher who raises a grade, and the inspector who becomes blind to the violations he should report.

The walls of the bubble that protect the speeches are strengthened by the profits from these “misdeeds,” but they also discourage public protest. The fruits of so many illegalities end up on the counters of foreign currency shops, they are exchanged for the rechargeable lamps that will light some houses this summer. Meanwhile, outside, who cares that the blackout reigns.



One thought on “Rechargeable Lamps

  1. …and yet oil imports from Venezuela are up??? The cuban government, through its joint refineries, are selling most of those imports to the caribbean rather than using it domestically. So the domestic blackouts are an intentional strategy to gain hard currency. The dictatorship doesn’t care if you swelter as long as the central government gets the money it needs.

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