THE BLOG

Cuba's Dual Currency System Provides a Way to Cheat Shoppers

Photo: Yoani Sanchez

Her son pulled on her skirt asking for candy, while the guard demanded the ticket from the cash register and someone asked, insistently, for the purse-check ticket. In the midst of all this madness, she made the mistake of not checking her change for the purchase, a little over 6 CUC that had to last until the end of the month. When she got home she discovered that hidden among the coins was one with the face of Che Guevara, who, with his majestic gaze, tried to make himself pass for a one convertible peso coin. The lady ran back to confront the vendor, but no one paid any attention. She'd been ripped off by one of the most common tricks of the hard currency stores: giving her a three Cuban peso coin in place of a shiny CUC, with eight times the value. She had the urge to throw that tiny coin through the window, but her husband recommended she sell it to some tourist to recover the lost money.

Life offers these unpredictable somersaults. The face of Guevara, the former Central Bank president (1960), looks at us now from a coin that is used primarily as a souvenir or as an object of deception. That man who had the irreverence -- some will say the disrespect -- to sign the national bank notes with his brief nickname, "Che," is contained within a circle of metal of doubtful value. Trapped in this monetary duality that he never imagined hovering over the chimeric "New Man" of his discourses. All around the hotels, now, one sees the elderly with their poverty-level pensions, showing a foreigner the "merchandise" of these shiny three-peso coins, with a beret and jacket-clad guerilla. Meanwhile, the clever hand of a cashier managed to sneak them into a client's change, taking advantage of the distraction of a confused customer caught between the demands of her son for candy, and of the doorman who checked her bag.

2011-03-30-Screenshot20110328at1.26.24PM.pngYoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.

Translating Cuba is a new compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.
Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, can be ordered here.