Heberto Trades a Ram for a Suitcase to Leave Cuba With His Family
His entire life has passed between two Cuban territories: the current province of Artemisa and the city of Havana. But this October Heberto, his wife and his little daughter will make the leap to another geography. The family will embark on a migratory route that will take them from Brazil to the southern border of the United States. “This is what we have resolved,” he says, hardly giving importance to the thousands of kilometers that separate the point of entry to South America and the final goal.
“We needed a large suitcase and a small one,” he says. “With the big one we are going to leave with our daughter’s things packed, but it’s possible that along the way we will have to commit to just the little one because we will have to cross complicated areas.” A seller of cheese, guava pods and yogurt, Heberto has been traveling for years from his native Alquízar to the area around the train terminal on Tulipán Street to offer his products. In that same area he closed a deal this week: a large suitcase for a sheep.
“A former customer had the suitcase and needed the meat, so in a few minutes we settled it,” he details. “Then he told me that if I got him a large, well-cured cheese, he could also give me in exchange one of those carry-on bags that go in the cabin of the plane.” One gains food at a time of inflation and rising costs of basic products, the other gets a good pair of solid suitcases — plus “with wheels” — that will help him in his efforts to emigrate.
The neighborhood around the small station, however, loses one of its most reliable merchants. For two decades, Heberto has cultivated a loyal clientele that values ??his merchandise. His catalog has undergone variations over the years but has never been interrupted “except during the pandemic,” he clarifies. “There was a time when I also dedicated myself to selling cremitas de leche (condensed milk fudge), but that is no longer possible because there are fewer cows in my area.”
“Then tilapia gave me a lot of business, but that also fell out of favor because there is no food to feed the fish in the dams.” Pork was one of his star items, until “the guajiros of Alquízar slaughtered the pigs because they had no food to give them and the people who raise them now do it for family consumption.” In recent times, he rounded out his list with some fruits, okra, some Creole rice and the occasional piece of mutton. The exact product that, this time, has been turned into the suitcases that will help him fulfill his dream of “leaving this country as soon as possible.”