Used Clothing Disappears in Havana
May 27, 2014
HAVANA TIMES— Flowery spandex pants and blouses with open backs are
invading the streets of Havana. The striped-shirt craze seems to be
blowing over. Cubans seem to go insane over clothing and fashion, and
the whole city seems to be one huge masquerade at times.
Clothing is a serious thing in Cuba. The authorities, who supervised the
birth of hundreds of privately-operated boutiques and saw to their
sudden death within the span of a year, attest to this. Now, to my
dismay, they are stealthily doing away with thrift clothing stores.
The year 2014 could well go down in history as the “Year of the War
against the Textile Industry.”
As I recall, I was able to throw together an outfit for myself for the
first time thanks to so-called “rag-stores.” Back in 2000, my mother
bought me a green tank-top and a pair of checkered shorts (rather
unusual and unforgettable pieces of clothing). As an adult, nearly all
of the clothing I’ve been able to afford on my salary has been the used
clothing sold at these stores.
There, with a bit of patience, one can find new pairs of pants (with the
price tag still attached) and jackets that would cost as much as 20 CUC
($22 USD) at a State hard currency store, hidden among 80s sports
jackets and gigantic out-of-style dresses.
In 2011, the State announced it was considering discontinuing the sale
of these products because it could no longer afford to pay the suppliers
(without mentioning who these were), but no store was dismantled then.
A little over a week ago, I walked down Havana’s San Rafael boulevard
and saw that all of the used clothing sections in the hardware and craft
markets there had vanished. I saw a man pushing a cart with a large
bundle of clothing on it and asked him where he was taking it. “To some
warehouse,” replied the confused laborer.
For a number of days, I thought it could be an “aesthetic” decision. San
Rafael is quite close to the city’s tourist circuit and the sight of
Cubans crouching down in front of piles of tattered clothes, hoping to
find something decent and cheap to wear, isn’t exactly good publicity
for a socialism set on “updating” itself.
It wasn’t until I saw that this was also happening at neighborhood
stores such as the one located at the intersection of Neptuno and
Aramburu streets or on the Calzada de Infanta, in front of the Parque de
los Martires, that I began to worry.
Used clothing, with prices oscillating between 70 and 35 Cuban pesos
(3.5 and 1.75 USD) for a pair of pants and a blouse, respectively, while
certainly not cheap when set against an average Cuban salary, was at
least an option for people.
Its disappearance – definitive, by the looks of it – leaves low-income
people at the mercy of the black market and the extremely poor-quality
clothing imported by the State and sold at hard-currency stores. The
official press seems to be ignoring a situation that could well affect
broad sectors of the population.
Source: “Used Clothing Disappears in Havana – Havana Times.org” –