Lissandra's Thoughts

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ration Books

I enjoy reading much more than posting, and I think I do my reading a lot better than my writing.

I've not posted anything regarding fidel and or Cuba because I feel that other bloggers I read do a much better job than I ever would do. I always feel I'll sound redundant.

This time is a exception, because I really think people who defend that system of government have absolutely no idea what they're defending, and the ones that do know, imagine themselves being one of the elite government officials rather than one of the slaves that survives under this type of regime.

For that past two nights I watched a show on a Miami Spanish speaking TV station called "A Mano Limpia". It airs on local channel 41, Monday thru Saturday at 8PM EST for an hour. Most of the nights the shows effort is to bring the realities of what is going on today in Cuba, to the public. The show can also be viewed via internet at The last two nights the host (Oscar Haza), has brought on a guest who has put together a documentary of the reality of the 1990's in Cuba and the ration book experiences.

The documentary is in Spanish with English subtitles and I'm sure once the fidel and communist era is a past history of Cuba, clips of this documentary will be shown on the History channel. As it depicts and shows real footage of what living with a ration book is like. It was filmed in a pre-castro era department stored named "Fin de Siglo," now reserved for the avante-guarde worker and couples who've applied for and attained a marriage license. Other people have other ration stores available to them with less items. The special items in this store for couples and good workers are for example, a bottle of shampoo for the couple and a bag of cookies for that dedicated worker. In this store's liquor department you'll find available for purchase a tissue paper ornament for your bedside table or a lighter, but no liquor.

For all who do not know what a ration book is, it is a little book that tells you what you can buy and when. From a toothbrush to a pair of shoes and everything in between. The same goes for any appliances, housewares and food. At first that doesn't sound so bad to a person with absolutely no knowledge of all that this book represents. Then you learn that each family gets assigned a number and a letter, and you may only shop on the days assigned to that letter and number. Then you find out that your letter and number get called twice a year for clothing. Once you've fooled yourself into thinking that buying clothing once a year is not so bad, you're told that although there are 4 people in your household, you're only allowed to buy two articles of every type of clothing. Such as two pieces of underwear. Two shirts, skirts or pants. Two pairs of socks or a pair of shoes and a pair of socks, never two pairs of shoes.

Next is the food. Your number and letter get called more often for food and it goes something like this. If there is nobody in your household who is under seven years old, there is no milk for you. If nobody is on a doctor assigned special diet, there is no red meat for you. Chicken is available at a pound per person per week. Rice is 4lbs per person per month. The last one doesn't sound so bad until you remember that the chicken runs out and there are no vegetables to go with that. The rice itself often comes with dirt and other unmentionables, so in the end you have roughly 3lbs of rice. Beans are a staple of Cuban cuisine, and they're not always available, and if they are, they're the same beans for months and months and months, such is the case with lentil beans. Black beans are rare commodity at the store. Two blocks down from that Cuban store are tourists at a restaurant ordering a Surf & Turf lunch, where Cubans aren't allowed to linger outside, not even to catch a whiff of that wonderfully delicious aroma.

How were they able to film this documentary? That is simple, it was going to be filmed to show the world at large what a great system fidel had implemented in Cuba. They filmed it with all the permissions granted by the government. The object was to film the day to day activities in the store and have the store clerks show the camera what they offer at the different departments and how you're allowed to purchase the items. If it weren't a reality you'd think it is the best comedy filmed in decades. You'd be spilling your guts laughing if you didn't realize it is the reality these people were living in. I started to wonder what level of stupor these 11 million people have fallen under to accept this as their lot in life.

Once it was edited and complete the Cuban government considered the documentary was anti-revolutionary. Imagine that, THE REALITY WAS ANTI-REVOLUTIONARY! Needless to say it was never aired on Cuban TV and we're lucky that a copy of the documentary survived and made it out of Cuba. I'm sure that in years to come, once fidel and that regime are a past history of Cuba, clips of this documentary will be aired on the History Channel.

For the record, the avante-guarde and couples store is no longer open to the public. The good workers and married couples now receive a permit to shop at a Dollar/Euro store.

There are many people who defend the ration book, and believe it is the only way to establish true equality. These people fail to realize that the government elite do not live by the ration book, they live like the citizens of their much hated capitalist enemy do. To those that think the implementing of a ration book is fair and just treatment of a government, know that the Southern plantations in the US had such a book for slaves. These books stated how much clothing and food should be allotted to each slave by the plantation owner/manager. In this case the words "plantation owners/manager" can be replaced with "the government elite" and the words "each slave" can be replaced by "each Cuban". All this only 90 miles south of Key West.


Blogger Manuel A. Tellechea said...

A Cuban economist once pointed out that the weekly rations distributed by Spanish law to Cuban slaves far exceeded the Castro regime's rations for its slaves.

19th-century Cuban slaves were alloted 12 lbs of pork or jerk beef (tasajo) a week per individual and a limitless quantity of viands, for example. If their masters cheated them of their lawful rations they actually had the right to sue them before the local magistrate.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Lissy said...

So those poor bastard were alloted more food than Cubans today. Unbelievable!

3:37 PM  
Blogger Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Here's more on the same subject: not only did 19th-century Cuban slaves receive more food but also more clothing and other "luxuries."

Read the attached article and be astonished for life:

3:55 PM  
Blogger Lissandra said...

Thank you!

4:12 PM  

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