Cola, colas, cubanos

New year, new tail

Havana Cuba. — After she ended up in the gas queue, Mirta had to rectify her appointment at the notary’s office where she has been trying to solve a housing issue for more than a week. It was almost noon, she had been standing in line since 10 in the morning but her day queuing began almost at dawn, at 5:00, when her son-in-law took her on the motorcycle to the Capri neighborhood to be able to reach a turn in the passport office.

The day before, she tells me, was also a day of long lines for her. She got oil at the point of sale that corresponds to her supply book, but before she had to go to the Oficoda to rectify an error for which they did not want to dispatch the rationed food in the warehouse.

The previous difficulties were added to the queues to pay for electricity plus another previous one at the ATM where, despite the time lost, the operation was rejected due to lack of connection “with the system”. Consequently, this forced her to start another queue at another distant bank, other than that “disconnected” one, because without cash she could not “come out victorious” in all the other queues that awaited her until the end of the week and the start of the other, when they still have to wait for him, like any Cuban, new queues, which after all are the same ones that never end.

A few days ago, one of my neighbors listed to me the hundred queues he had to do between August and December to transfer ownership of the car and the house, before undertaking the procedures to emigrate legally for family reunification. There were so many sleepless nights and days standing in the sun, lining up, that the marks of exhaustion have sprouted on his body.

“Before August I didn’t even take aspirin, now I’m taking about ten pills. It’s just that I don’t believe it because I already have almost all the papers, and at dawn I get up with a start and review them one by one, several times. I tell my daughter that when she gets there she won’t know me, in a matter of months I have lost more than 20 pounds, and nothing, I have nothing wrong, it’s just stress,” the neighbor tells me and adds: “It’s as if they punished us for leaving, as if they wanted people to pass the time like this, because when they finish with one tail they invent the other”.

Queue to buy hamburgers in Carlos III store (Photo by the author)

Confident in what he had heard in the official media, this same person had tried to undertake many of the procedures virtually, as easy as various officials and television specialists have described when they talk about digitization and computerization as if they were really They will work here and now. But the reality is that none of the procedures that my neighbor was obliged to carry out gave results through those channels.

“Most of them force you to go to the place afterwards and have to queue. Even with the criminal record, after I did everything online and it seemed that everything was ok, I came to pick them up and I had to stand in the same line as the others”, protests the neighbor while showing me from his phone how difficult it is to access most of the institutional pages where supposedly the citizen can avoid face-to-face procedures.

“There are times when one enters easily and almost when the form is about to finish, it restarts or freezes, or it shows an error message. It is not a subtle way of telling yourself that you have to end up standing in line”, complains this neighbor, whose only relief, he confesses, is that in a few months he will say goodbye definitively to that reality that literally makes him sick.

New year, new tail
A queue to buy food in Havana (Photo by the author)

Viviana, another neighbor who needed to buy 2,500 pesos in seals to get a passport. He also heard in some official media that he could pay for the procedure directly by making a bank transfer from his cell phone, using the Transfermóvil application, and without the need for stamps, but he found that such an operation was not possible to obtain the passport, despite that it was for other legal processes.

“I don’t know why they don’t extend that system to passport stamps. It’s that they should eliminate the stamps for everything, if they can’t meet the demand or they can’t print them, they should invent a QR code, or whatever. It’s making you spend work for no reason, because they know what the passport is for and they can’t make things easy for you. To get out of them you have to suffer,” says Viviana, who had to visit more than five post offices in Havana to try, without results, to buy the stamps she needed, so she ended up paying them at a premium.

“In the only post office where I found them was in Santa Catalina, but a horrible queue. And nothing, on the same corner a man was selling them for 5 thousand and I bought them just like that. And I’m still waiting in line to have my identity card scanned, and that’s at 7 in the morning, so that later they give you your turn to get your passport, which is taking more than a week,” Viviana protests while He waits his turn in another queue, the one for bread.

The demand for stamps for paperwork is so skyrocketing that right now people pay whatever it takes to get the amount they need, because the queues are gigantic at the very few post offices where they are sold, as huge as the queues at the notary offices, as well as in the offices where passports are prepared or where “criminal records” certificates are obtained.

The queues do not end and, on the contrary, each day that passes another one is added. And all those endless crowds these days have far exceeded the already almost “patrimonial” slaughter for chicken, and even the long “vigils” in the CADECA to grab the one hundred dollars allowed per day.

Not even a shadow remains of the latter as they became “virtual”, but it is known that, even if we do not see it, it is another queue that is there, in the environment and, like the others, probably fulfilling that “collateral” function. ” that they all have in Cuba, where the regime needs the people to remain “distracted” in other things than how to overthrow it from power.

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