03/27/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cuban Regime Ambivalent About Self-Employed, While the People Can't Live Without Them

Photo: MJ Porter

The day started with a certain nightmarish atmosphere. The little sip of morning coffee was missing, because the seller with a thermos and paper cups wasn't on the corner. So she dragged her feet to the bus stop, while keeping an eye out for a collective taxi. Nothing. Not even an old Chevrolet came down the avenue, nor was there one of those ingenuous station wagons that can fit up to twelve people anywhere in sight. After an hour's wait she managed to climb on the bus, irritated that she didn't even have a little paper cone of peanuts to calm the hunger pangs emanating from her stomach.

At work that day she couldn't do much. The director didn't make it in because the woman who cares for her daughter was absent. The same thing happened with the administrator; her Russian-made Lada blew a tire and the tire-repair guy in her neighborhood closed early. At the lunch break the food trays were so empty they barely weighed a thing. The guy with the cart selling vegetables and tubers, with which they stretch the lunch menu, didn't come by. The head of public relations had a nervous breakdown because he couldn't print the photos he needed for a visa. The door of the nearest studio had a sign saying "Not Open Today," so his travel plans were ruined.

She decided to walk home to avoid having to wait. Her son asked if there was something to snack on, but the bread delivery man, with his sharp cry, hadn't shown up. Nor were the pizza kiosks open, and a raid on the farmers market had left all the stands empty. For dinner she cooked the little she found and washed the dishes with a rag from an old shirt, because there weren't any vendors selling dish mops. On top of everything, the fan wouldn't go on and the appliance repairman wasn't in his workshop.

She went to bed, in a pool of sweat, uncomfortable, hoping she would wake up to the return these figures who make her life possible: the self-employed, without whom her days are a sequence of deprivations and aggravations.

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