By Lorenzo Martin Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – I went to visit a friend today in the coastal town of Cojimar. We visit each other every now and then and try to fix the world as we drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Between sips of a bitter brew that we Cubans call palmiche, and at the bodega store they tell us that the coffee is mixed but never explain what it is mixed with exactly, we talked about the last few weeks when we hadn’t seen each other, our immediate plans and about the latest people we know to have left… yep, everyone is leaving. The most repeated news nowadays is the last friend to have left and you still haven’t found out.
After lunch, she asked me to go with her to the market outside the nearby Villa Panamericana to look for shoes because the pair she has won’t survive another two blocks, and she’s already stitched and glued them up a thousand times. It was a quite a short walk and the sun wasn’t scorching.
With the idea of buying deodorant and one or two other things I might need – cheap things mind you, because prices are through the roof -, I reached the market and I hadn’t been there even 3 minutes before I witnessed an event that I had heard about but had never seen with my own two eyes. An event that is worthy of being on the most convoluted episode of The X-Files.
After checking out a couple of stalls selling shoes and looking at a few others in search of something she might need at home, we had just about decided which shoes to buy. The thing is, buying here isn’t a question of who has the best products or prices, prices are the same on every stall, as if they all reached a consensus, and the products they do sell are pretty much the same or very similar. Most of the goods are imported by the sellers themselves, from Panama, Haiti, and other neighboring markets, or by mules who make the trip to buy the merchandise and then sell them in bulk once they return to Cuba. By the way, the quality is subpar. You can also find Serrano coffee or a pack of Gouda cheese at this market, which are taken from MLC stores