The End to Many Public Services in Cuba

HAVANA , (HT) Apr.22nd Cojimar was always a peaceful town, with a discreet bay and coral reef beaches. It was known as a fisherman’s town,

although nowadays it is pretty hard to find a fish. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today. As a town near Havana, Cojimar had many public services that disappeared over twenty years ago.

Some of them didn’t reach until the ‘90s, like gas. This service would come to our homes on a truck which, in addition to the driver, carried two workers who had the task of transporting the full canister of gas to the place it had to be installed, and they would take the empty one back. The customer didn’t have to touch the gas canister which weighed 100 pounds.

This delivery had to be requested via a card that you would hand into the post office, and the truck would come before your canister ran empty. This service cost 11 Cuban pesos.

The End to Many Public Services in Cuba

Women fetching their gas canisters.

Towards the mid-1990s, the 100-pound canisters were replaced by the one’s today that weighs 20-25 pounds and you must go to the place designated by the State to get it, and within a pre-established period of time.

The image of a young or elderly woman carrying a balita del gas (as we say) is one of those pitiful things that I can never get used to. This also entails a great deal of effort for our men. Many of them suffer back and knee pain as a result.

The most common health problem in my country after high blood pressure is perhaps back pain. It’s something I’ve personally deduced from seeing my own husband suffer, as well as the many men I see walking around wearing waistbands.

At the end of the day, services are meant to make our lives easier…

Laundry services were another service that we had until the ‘90s. As a child, I remember the truck that used to go to my grandparents’ home offering to wash, iron and dye all kinds of clothes, even curtains, bedcovers, etc., for an affordable price.

That slowly died out. I remember in the early ‘90s, my grandfather began to complain that the shirts he got back weren’t his and that the trousers were almost the latest trend. However, my friend Friki would get bags full of ‘40s suits that my grandfather wore, at his house.

That was the funnier part. The painful part for my grandparents was when their shirts came back ripped with their buttons melted by irons. While their wedding bedsheets – probably memories of their honeymoon – would come back dirty or with oil stains.

That oil stain detail was something that bothered my grandfather until the day he died. He once showed me those stains, angry, and told me that those sheets had put up with three governments and they hadn’t a single hole. That service no longer exists.

 The End to Many Public Services in Cuba
Water bottles that used to be delivered to peoples’ homes.

As a child, I also saw the La Cotorra water bottle trucks coming from Guanabacoa. One of those trucks would pass by every week and the worker – just like the gas one – would leave the bottle in your house, where you told him to.

That went on until the 1980s. I remember it exactly because it was at that time that we began to boil water at home. Like the above services, this one also disappeared without leaving a trace, and without another service to take its place.

During my childhood, a farmer would leave a liter of cow milk at our door, every dawn. He would charge for it at the end of the month. That also went on until the 1980s.

Up until the 1990s, we had TV engineers who would come to your home. This was just an expert who came to fix your TV in your house.

I remember how excited I was when I came home from school and discovered that the TV had been fixed. The technician’s visit cost 5 Cuban pesos. The repair charge depended on how difficult it was to fix.

All of these services were inherited from a time before my birth. It’s been over twenty years now without home services. You have to go outside for absolutely everything. The State recently tried to sell things online because of COVID-19. It was a failure.

Something I never got to see was the cabins on the beach where you could keep your clothes, and showers to wash off sand and salt. It may sound crazy. It’s not that restlessness of always having to constantly watch your clothes in the sun or being uncomfortable on a bus with your body full of sand and your skin stinging with salt.

We have been indoctrinated for many years now, with the idea that such services are a product of a bourgeois mindset. We aren’t the bourgeoisie today, but we have slowly been leaning towards being apes because of the wear and tear to our proletarian spine.