In Cuba, ‘There Isn’t Any,’ Period.
In Havana it’s normal to find signs all over the place, offering articles or services. Written by hand, more often than not with spelling errors on an old scrap of cardboard with stains on it — from which one deduces it’s at the end of its useful life — these signs announce all those things which are difficult to find in the state-run shops. The most common one is for the sale of ice, but also many other things — as long as it doesn’t lead to problems with the authorities — from mouse poison to apartments, from plumbing services to fumigation.
One of these signs, attached to a balcony in the Havana district of Cayo Hueso, caught the attention. “There isn’t any,” it read. And that was it. No explanation and no telephone number to ring. “There isn’t any,” as if that covered just about anything and everything, encapsulating in one brief phrase the entire state of the country. There isn’t any gas, there isn’t any bread, there isn’t any chicken, there isn’t any sugar, there isn’t any ham, there isn’t any transport, there isn’t any freedom. In Cuba, there isn’t any. Period.
Translated by Ricardo Recluso