Garage Sales are a Miracle in Cuba

Garage Sales are a Miracle in Cuba

HAVANA, Oct. 28th  During these long days of blackouts, I decided to empty the wardrobes in the house to relieve my mother’s stress a little.  It was a well-calculated strategy, a garage sale. We don’t have a garage, doorway, or garden, unfortunately, but choosing which pieces to sell and deciding on prices kept my mother entertained.

Ordinary Cubans are always holding onto things for later. This imprecise time almost always has family connotations. You never know when a member of your family tree might need something. That’s why wardrobes and a room to store things become the meeting place for many generations.

Sorting through the clothes and getting my mother to let go of her emotional ties to them took a week.

Blackouts continued that week, but she stopped kneeling down on the ground and begging God Almighty for the health of the fridge freezer, the TV, my computer, and the fans.

She was no longer a slave to cooking in the early morning or going out to hunt down candles and packs of cotton wool to make small lights. You could hear her laughing again with her friends when they came around.

The conversations about blackouts, hardship and shortages were put on the back burner. They all joined in the search for unused clothes, that they’d refused to sell in exchange for that coveted piece of cheese on the illicit market.

It was so nice that I began to pull strings so we could use the common space in our building for a group sale. It didn’t result in anything, but it kept all of their spirits high for a while.

Garage sales, a form of retail for the less-privileged in Cuban society, have come to stay. Nobody can question their knack for enthusiasm, even the sellers. Friends pass by to have a look, to buy or take something.

Neighbors join in and this lovely time they spend together makes them forget our harsh reality. Of course, it has its detractors, those dark souls that give it a halo of underground illegality, and exorbitant prices. But if we bear in mind the fact that we don’t see things for what they are, but for what we are, then garage sales speak a lot for the Cuban soul, I think.