Simonne walked around Havana to ask about the situation of several local women and of people working on tourism-related activities. She brings us their testimonies.
“The border closure and the immediate drop of tourism has been a disaster for our pockets, fortunately, I asked for the temporary
suspension of the license” – told me Odalis, who is landlady of two apartments for renting to foreign people only –. According to her, she is using the food reserve that she had for the rental and also is affecting her bank account, since she has no other income.
Her mother, who had a stress crisis, kicked Alicia and her 8-months-old baby out of the house. She also destroyed Alicia’s phone and threw all her things out on the street. Now Alicia lives in a temporary rental. She does not know yet how she is going to pay as her husband became unemployed as a consequence of the pandemic.
Carmen’s case has shocked me. Her mother underwent brain tumour surgery and amidst the crisis she cannot get soap, diapers
or medicines. Even getting an oxygen cylinder has been impossible.
The supply was already affected before the COVID-19, but this phenomenon came to increase the lack of food and hygiene products in general. “I rent to foreigners, now I am selling rum and cigarettes to survive. My daughter used to work in a cafeteria and she still has contact that provide me the products to sell” – tells me Laura with a bit of resignation.
Juan rides a rickshaw, he is starting to feel the lack of pedalling and profit. He tells that, despite not being the owner of the rickshaw, every day he had a little money to buy food and cigarettes. Currently he goes from block to block collecting bottles to sell them to the small private industries that still operate. Lucia says that sometimes she wants to run away. Both of her parents have Alzheimer’s and she has to balance her emotions and needs. “Sometimes I want to die” – tells crying.
Some days we do not have electricity in all day. By contrast other times electricity is cut during the dawn when the heat is unbearable and the mosquitoes feast on us. There are communities where water is a luxury, at times you have to go out and carry it. Almost always the women are the ones who carry the water, meanwhile the man waits on the couch for the precious liquid to bathe.
The families that receive remittances, food and phone recharges from abroad, are the ones who are able to handle better these moments of paralysis. The others, the ordinary Cubans, do not know how long we can resist. There are many and diverse examples of the terrible situation that the Cuban people live today: houses in bad condition on the verge of collapse, overpopulation of households generating conflicts among the family members, long queues to get food and toiletries, hyperinflationary commodity prices… The question that spins in the air is: What do the next few months have in store for us?