From Doorways to Catalogs / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on November 6, 2013
Private businesses must clear out their merchandise before December 31.
In an album for weddings there are photos of blouses, pants, shoes. They
aren’t good photos, but you can see the labels and brands, which is most
important to the buyers. They have everything: evening wear, tennis
outfits, socks for teenagers, sportswear, underwear. Most of the goods
come from Panama and Ecuador, but they also come through Terminal 2 at
the international airport. So-called “mules” bring them on flights from
Miami, and also through Nassau and the Cayman Islands. Ephemeral
fashions, trendy colors, synthetic fabrics, big names painted on the
fabric, it all fills the precarious catalogs displayed door-to-door.
The so-called private “boutiques” or “trapi-shopping” (‘trapi’ comes
from the word for ‘rag’), have been hit hard legally in recent weeks.
After becoming a growing phenomenon in the country’s most central
doorways and streets, they’ve now been given an ultimatum to clear out
their merchandise. They have until 31 December to sell what they already
have in stock, but 2014 will be “a year free of imported clothing sales
by the self-employed.” That privilege will be enjoyed only by State
stores, where a bathing suit can cost three-month’s wages. Merchandise
that is old, poor quality, and out of style, meant the government stores
couldn’t match the more modern and cheaper offerings provided by the
Reluctant — or unable — to compete, the Cuban State has put an end to
the business of “trapi-shopping.” Several of the best-known and
air-conditioned places have already closed their doors to the public.
Some have invested in redecorating their living rooms to receive their
customers, having seen that their prosperous business days are numbered.
However, as happens in a country with so many prohibitions, some are
already looking for a solution to the current crisis. For now, they are
shifting from doorways to catalogs; from on-site sales to in-home
shopping. No law can stop people from looking for what they need. So
they will go underground, continuing to sell skirts, shorts, sandals…
with that aura, so attractive, of the new and forbidden.
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Sánchez by Yoani Sánchez
Source: “From Doorways to Catalogs / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba” –