Weighing in on Toilet Paper in Cuba
February 28, 2012
Maria Matienzo Puerto
HAVANA TIMES, Feb 28 — At the Havana Book Fair I met a Mexican woman who
told me about some Mexican feminists who were debating on Facebook about
the best way for one to wash one's "toto" (female genitalia).
I laughed – I couldn't do otherwise. It's that I had never discussed
that with anyone and it seemed absurd (I think it still does) that
people would get into a debate about something so every day, something
So me, someone who's criticizing them, now I want to weigh into a
related topic: toilet paper.
I want to turn toilet paper into a social symbol in the reclamation of
the rights to intimacy and hygiene. That would be eschatological,
A long time ago, years perhaps, toilet paper in Cuba ceased being a
necessity and become a luxury for Cuban women.
Someone took note of this and began producing a type called "Calidad
Popular" (People's Quality); that was the slogan printed on the wrapper.
This consisted of a light brown paper that looked dirty, but which we
always thought was recycled or something. Plus, since it was sold in
local currency, nobody had a problem with it.
Well, there wasn't a problem until one day even the "People's Quality"
toilet paper started being sold in hard currency.
The prices began to rise from .90 CUC to 1.50 CUC (from about $1 USD to
$1.65 USD) for a pack of four rolls. Even still, though the price of
toilet paper hit 10 percent of a person's average monthly wage, women
continued to buy it. Now we were edging toward the height of a paroxysm.
Then it happened – the price tripled. There was no conciliation or any
other options. Now I had to spend 30 percent of my monthly salary on
toilet paper if I wanted to maintain my hygiene.
Does that seem superfluous, superficial…frivolous?
Well, so what? Maybe it is, but that's the way things work around here.
That's how things function. There just aren't that many options for
wiping off pee.