Potatoes with Police / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado
Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado, Translator: lapizcero
I heard it when I was in the patio taking in some clothes I had washed
because it looked like rain. I don't know who shouted to someone on the
block that there were potatoes with police. I perked my ears because,
like the smartest of the bunch, I was intrigued by this pronouncement.
The person addressed asked and got an explanation that there were
potatoes in the store, but they were only giving ten pounds of potatoes
per person, and that the queue and order were being controlled by the
police. In Cuba, the same way that what the authorities call liberty
and democracy aren't, ten pounds aren't ten, because the scales are
damaged by the corruption that gangrenes at almost every level.
We Cubans are accustomed to persuading our young children of the
importance of eating "la papa" — potatoes — to grow strong. For the
Cuban adult population, not only has this staple disappeared for five
decades, they have been weakened by being made to run from one place to
another in our country in the search for food,but their time and energy
has been diverted to prevent them from using it to think about other topics.
If a product is scarce for many years, as has been the case with this
root vegetable – and for most everything in Cuba – it's natural that
people want to buy the largest quantity permitted by their budgets, so
as to guarantee variety in the diet of their family for a greatest
number of days. Others, perhaps, place it on the table as the only
option, but we would all like it to be on sale all the time, accessible
to whomever wishes to consume it, in the amount desired and not when the
authorities want or direct it. But we are a country blocked by
inefficiency, incompetence and lack of order. These, among others, are
some of the prejudicial signs that cause the necrosis of our economy.
I started fantasizing during my domestic chores and imagined how my city
should be in this 2011; without piles of garbage in the corners, without
rats and other disease-carrying vectors running through it, with houses
with a coat of paint (not only the facades), with gutters also dressed
up and with well executed ramps to prevent handicapped people from
encountering architectural barriers; children reciting childhood texts
and not poetry about a soldier who died firing his weapon for the
politicized morning school assembly; a press that is free and truthful –
reliable rather than "realigned" – unions equally free, trade
associations, political pluralism, a civil society that is independent
from the state, monitoring and observance of human rights and
fundamental liberties, where people aren't jailed for wanting to promote
democratic change by peaceful means, where all Cubans can enter and exit
our country freely, independent executive, legislative and judicial
branches of government, a mixed economy, etc.
I was also of a mind to solve, also in my imagination, Cuba's food
problems when the strident voice of a street vendor – not mindful of
grammar – returned me to my routine: "Sponge mops, sticks to hang
clothes, floor mopppps …!"
Translated by: lapizcero
October 27 2011