VILLA CLARA, Cuba.- In front of the premises that Yoel has leased to sell pork, shortly before opening at eight in the morning, five or six people are waiting patiently for the boy to clean the pieces and separate them by His weight. On the aluminum table he prepares the packages, according to the demand of his buyers: clean ribs, shoulder, leg and fillets. Also, place some small leftovers made up of remains of the cut, fat, viscera and the legs of the animal. The first three buyers are interested in that last proposal, cheaper and accessible for their pockets. Yoel explains with some sarcasm that “a pig has only four legs and a liver”, that it cannot duplicate those parts.
To access his merchandise, this butcher graduated from Physical Culture moves to rural areas of the province where he gets a pound of “standing pig” at 140 pesos and sells it at 200 and 240, in the case of clean fillets. The “standing pig” is an expression used by these merchants to indicate that the live pig has been acquired. “Most of the guajiros raise the pigs to buy a television or a cell phone, and they leave it to you at that price, which is not that cheap either,” explains the boy in a contemptuous tone. “I have to bear the transport issue and pay someone else to slaughter the animal.”
According to Yoel, many of the people who wake up in front of his stall are guaranteeing the end of the year dinner in advance: “They are almost always the same expensive, they come to buy by the buchitos, I suppose to store it. In Villa Clara there are no pigs, the state does not have pigs. The restaurants are buying it standing from the same individuals for a hundred pesos. If it is now at this price, by December 31 it will go up much more ”.
At the end of 2020, the local media reported that state pig production had stabilized to some extent in a province like Villa Clara, which at some point held the record of more than 25 thousand tons of pork destined for the consumption of the population and The tourism. For December of the same year, the government organized a trade fair in areas of the city’s Buen Viaje market, in which different pieces of pork could be purchased at the price of 30 pesos per pound and through the supply book. At the site, several trucks loaded with meat were disembarking that, supposedly, they had to reach for the massive concentration. It was about three days in which the surrounding streets woke up crowded with personnel who even spent the night in surrounding areas.
During the first quarter of 2021, pork disappeared again from private markets, the main measuring source of the very shortage of state shelves. With the removal of the price cap and the free will granted to producers, it has reached the current price that ranges between 200 and 250 pesos. On social media, other pig owners tend to market it exclusively in euros or US dollars.
As a result of this measure, many sellers saw the doors open to take advantage of the merchandise bought from intermediaries. Currently, a pound of tomatoes (approximately three units) costs from 80 to 100 pesos, a piece of cheese has come to be worth 150 pesos and a cabbage or cabbage about 70 or 80.
In the Buen Viaje market in Santa Clara, the meat space is advertised on the main board as “concurrent”. This adjective is assigned to those sellers who have permission to market their products there, according to supply and demand.
Although the place belongs to the state, those who sell in the dog section are self-employed whose business depends on the value of the informal market. One of the butchers who dispatch pork near this site, also at 200 pesos per pound, confirms Yoel’s conjectures: “By the end of the year a piece of pork will cost the same as a cell phone,” he says. . “To the people who come here I tell them to take advantage now, that by the end of December this knife will not even have pork rinds to chop on.”
When the account does not give …
The high prices of pork, meats and salads are also reflected in the undernourished offer of the state gastronomy. The Governor’s House, a state-owned center, now operates with some supplies purchased from individuals, according to one of its dependents. The menu of this site, which was once prolific in varied dishes based on chicken, beef, pork and seafood, currently consists of a single laminated and concise page.
“We ordered two spaghetti, two pizzas, a bottle of water and two soft drinks. It was around 900 pesos, ”explains Yolexis Rodríguez, a man from Santa Clara who“ went out to eat ”with his wife at the Governor’s House to celebrate their anniversary. “I imagine that if a family of four comes, it will be more than three thousand pesos in a meal, which, in addition, is not very abundant.”
A frappe lemonade in this place has come to cost 75 pesos, which used to be equivalent to 3 CUC and with which you could buy a package of chicken pieces in the currency collection stores. After putting the “Ordering Task” into practice, the price of food in Cuba is unpredictable, oscillating, once it reaches a certain value, it never returns to its original state.
Most private restaurants are supplied in three possible ways: through MLC stores, buying from other individuals, or purchasing raw material “extracted” from state centers.
“So that the dishes are not so expensive, you have to juggle,” explains an owner of a private restaurant in Santa Clara who asks not to be identified. “Here everything has to be bought from the left and doing a thousand businesses for which anyone can pay a very high fine or even go to jail. That happens, above all, with pizzerias, although it is not my case. If there is no flour for sale in the MLC stores, where do they get it from then?
If before the gastronomy of the state functioned as a sandbox for those who received low wage incomes, now these centers exhibit prices similar to those of private establishments. The gap between salary and the value of a simple plate of food has widened unprecedentedly in recent months.
The Rainbow Complex was another of the state sites open to the public this November in Santa Clara, famous in the eighties for its pizzeria, its natural swimming pool and the defunct “Carlos Marx” playground. To access the Rainbow restaurants, Santa Clara residents must rent some private transport or wait patiently for the few bus routes that reach this place. The precarious recreational offer for families in the center of the city conditions that a considerable number of people gather every weekend.
“In the Rainbow and anywhere in Santa Clara, the prices are very high for state gastronomy and the quality is terrible,” posted user Leonel Alfaro on Facebook, referring to this site. Other people also complained online about “mistreatment”, the delay in having lunch, and the sudden absence of some of the food that was on the menu once they had entered the restaurant.
Another user identified as Yumila Ramírez also shared her experience in the place in networks: “I went last Sunday and I was in line from nine to twelve to enter the park, and then from 1:30 to 3:45 queuing for lunch. The pork steak at 170 pesos and the yellow rice at 70, and a natural juice of canned marmalade that I do not recommend to anyone. Conclusions: if you decide to go to the Rainbow, take lunch boxes prepared for you and your children, fill yourself with patience and get up early ”.
Already open to tourism, the city of Santa Clara does not seem prepared to receive foreign diners in its state restaurants. On the other hand, hostel owners are concerned about being able to maintain a stable supply of food and beverages in their businesses. Meanwhile, the population waits for the end of the year: “I buy the piece of meat now,” says Alberto González, a retired elderly man with 1,700 pesos, who has just paid a little more than that for a piece of pork. “You will see the prices and the despair in December. It is better to have a bird in hand ”.
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