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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

A Cuban Skirmish for Rice

June 15, 2010 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

Growing lines for rice.

The sale of rice on the Cuban black market has reached more than three times the price of this product in agricultural markets. Several days ago, the lack of the grain provoked a popular protest in one neighborhood of the capital.

Rice is the basic dish on the Cuban dining room table.  For this reason, I can’t imagine how some people can play around with this food, much less an administrative entity of the State.

It’s well known that the monthly rice ration granted to each citizen has been insufficient for some time now for most people.  This is why the sale of that commodity for 3.5 Cuban pesos a pound in agricultural markets has helped to satisfy this need.  However, this supply has declined radically in the last few weeks

At the “agro” market in my neighborhood, several days ago they unloaded several bags of rice. Nearby residents were witness to this and came over to the stand to buy some.  The problem was created when the sales manager and the workers denied the existence of the product in their warehouse.

Let us in.

Gradually more people began to assemble until we made up a significant group.  One younger guy demanded the right to buy any of the products present in the establishment.  He called on the rest of the residents to enter by force and confirm the presence of the grain.  “This is the people’s market,” he protested, while demanding that locals be allowed to go back into the warehouse area. The rest of the neighborhood residents supported him.

After almost half hour, the venders said the sacks inside the storage area didn’t contain rice, but cornmeal.  “We want to buy flour too,” “we’re hungry, we’ll buy what there is,” were the replies from the people.

The next excuse was to say that they had two sacks of rice to be sold at an Agricultural Fair – another answer that failed to calm the irritated crowd.  It was clear that they didn’t want to bring out the rice but instead hoped to stockpile it for later sale on the black market.

The people’s pressure increased and the manager finally conceded to show the warehouse to the younger guy.  After a few minutes the youth re-appeared confirming the suspicion of everyone; there were in fact sacks of rice in the warehouse.  What’s more, “They’re going to sell the rice to us; ten pounds per person!” he announced.

Euphoria prompted the applause of all those present, as well as the voice of a poor, young woman who shouted the old slogan: “When an energetic and fervent people cry…injustice trembles!”  Fidel’s historic phrase acquired new and vibrant significance.

We had won a small but noble battle.


What's your opinion?

  • Anna Artén

    I congratulate the neighbours to their victory! Only if the people take part in fighting corruption and black market there can be a change.