What Do Cuban Children Want For Christmas? / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 5 January 2017 – Chocolates, toys and
technology star in the letters that Cuban children are writing to the
Three Kings right now. The tradition of giving gifts to children on
Epiphany, the 6th of January – the day the Three Kings are believed to
have reached the manger to honor Jesus’ birth – arrived with force after
decades of fierce atheism, but this year the economic crisis has cut the
expectations of gifts.
Patricia, 28, works in a private day care center in Havana’s Miramar
neighborhood. Last week she helped the children write letters addressed
to Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. “Most asked for electronic tablets,
cars with batteries or video games,” she says.
The children at Patricia’s nursery are the children of parents with a
high purchasing power: foreigners resident in the country or owners of
private restaurants. They are willing to pay between 60 and 100 Cuban
convertible pesos a month (about the same in dollars) for the care of
their children and to satisfy all their whims for January 6.
However, the picture is very different in the vast majority of
families. “I warned them that they have to ask for something cheap,
because I have had many expenses,” says Yaimara, the mother of two
girls, ages five and ten. The woman finished repairing the roof of her
house and has been left in a complicated economic situation.
“The thing is, it’s not like before,” reflects Yaimara, who complains
that “everything has gone up in price” and she cannot “reach into my
wallet and buy toys, because now everything goes for food.”
The network of state markets is preparing for the occasion. The
centrally located Carlos III Plaza in Havana has one of the toy stores
most frequented lately. Inside, dolls compete with kitchen sets,
costumes and small musical instruments.
A box with pieces to set up a small zoo costs 27.90 CUC, the monthly
salary of a qualified state worker. Lower-income families buy plastic
figurines or crystal marbles. “I’ve been saving up for this all year,” a
grandmother told 14ymedio as she bought a truck with a tiny driver.
Others ask the Magi for food. “I want chocolates and soft drinks,” says
Daniela, a sixth grader from a school in Cerro. Her parents warned her
that “there is no money for toys” and the girl has adjusted her
expectations in line with the family’s wallet.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Government supplied subsidized toys
through a rationed market for industrial products. With the fall of the
Soviet Union that was eliminated. Those who were children then are now
parents and juggle to meet the demands of their own children.
For them, informal commercial networks are an alternative. For 25 CUC,
the Revolico classified site (a kind of Cuban Craigslist) offers Lego
City sets* that include three small figures: a deep sea diver and two
scuba divers. Cheaper options are inflatable balls for 3 CUC, jump ropes
for only 1 CUC and teddy bears for less than 5 CUC.
*Translator’s note: The Lego Deep Sea Starter Set – which appears to be
the set referred to – is available for less than $10 (in some cases much
less) in the United States. 25 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is roughly $25.
Source: What Do Cuban Children Want For Christmas? / 14ymedio, Zunilda
Mata – Translating Cuba –