Reports from Cuba: Havana corner shop ‘Lavin Mattresses’ shows its endless rubbish

Natalia Lopez Moya reports in. 14yMedio from Havana via Translating Cuba:

The Havana Corner Shop ‘Lavin Mattresses’ Shows Its Endless Rubbish

On Wednesday a mountain of rubbish blocked the entrance to the building and forced the Communal Services to remove it, after weeks of accumulation.

Soft and comfortable and long-lasting, that’s how they marketed the mattresses sold by the Lavín company more than half a century ago at the central Havana corner location of calles Neptuno and Lealdad. Only a memory remains of that private concern, nationalised and converted into the Office for Consumer Registration (Oficoda). On Wednesday a mountain of rubbish blocked the entrance to the building and forced the Communal Services to remove it, after weeks of accumulation. (14ymedio)

A neighbour watched from her balcony as a truck and a bulldozer tried to remove the waste that covered the pavement and made traffic flow difficult on a street that is used by many independent taxis to connect Old Havana with El Vedado and the western districts of the Cuban capital. “Oh, they finally turned up then?” bellowed the woman from her vantage point, and a number of other nearby residents gave support with similar shouts of indignation, which fell on deaf ears as far as the workers of the state monopoly were concerned.

With a flaky shop front and ancient windows covered in cardboard and wooden boards the place is no longer recognisable even by those who used to visit it in its former splendour. With the slogan “A Lavín mattress  lasts and lasts”, the shop was one of the company’s branches, whose main shop was in Calle Monte y Rastro and their factory was at 52 Pedroso in the El Cerro district. Owned by Ramón Lavín Allende and his brothers, the family business also sold hats and had shops that sold home accessories.

But few people in the area remember the era when the corner was an important commercial hub with the mattress shop on one side and a market run by the famous company Minimax on the opposite side. “There’s not many of us left now”, an elderly man told 14ymedio; on Wednesday he’d watched the rubbish removal by Communal Services, from a window in his home. “My parents bought their matrimonial bed at Lavín and they weren’t rich people, they paid in instalments”, he said.

An old receipt, bearing the name ’Consuelo Rodríguez’ bears witness to the type of credit sales made popular by the mattress company. A neighbour, from number 1011 in the nearby Calle Belascoaín, probably a customer or an employee of the hotel La Maravilla, as the document states, acquired an air mattress and a blanket from Lavín in 1945 for a total of 12 pesos. This piece of paper, which is for sale for 6 euros online on an auction site, is a relic from times gone by.

Consuelo Rodríguez probably passed away years ago; hire purchase hasn’t existed in Cuba for decades, La Maravilla became a kind of citadel and all that remains of the Lavín company are buildings which remain dilapidated or taken over by homeless families and the building of the emblematic business on Neptuno y Lealdad is now busy with the administration of the rationing system which has been imposed on the people in Cuba for more than 60 years. The mountain of rubbish which surrounded it, and which the Comunal Services was trying to clear up on Wednesday, was all that was left – the burial of a time past, for which there remain no witnesses.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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