With Small Sellers Strangled, Will Cubans Lose Their Pizza?

Nostalgia for Pizza


It arrived in force in the seventies to break the grayness of the rationed market. Amid the daily rice with beans, pizza invaded us with its novelty and its colors. Each province built a pizzeria and created its own recipe, a source of dismay for any Mediterranean chef, but how captivating to the islanders. Thick, with a lot of tomato and crispy edges, thus it was recorded in the minds of several generations of Cubans.

Then came the crisis of the nineties and the local Italian food places sold only an infusion of orange peels and cigars. We were filled with nostalgia for the lasagna and spaghetti tasted in the "golden" decades of the Soviet subsidy. The topic of food was inevitable when friends got together and, on that theme, pizza aroused the greatest longing. When the pressure of hunger and discontent exploded in what was called the Rafter Crisis in August 1994, the government authorized self-employment. From the hands of those enterprising purveyors the lost products returned, made with flour.

Many Cuban workers today depend on "street" pizza, sold by private hands. They substitute pizza for the deplorable lunch served in their workplace. However, for several months, supplies have been scarce in the family enterprises. The prolonged raids against the informal market, a result of the crisis in the wake of the hurricanes, has strangled the food sellers. Without the diversion of state resources, few could make it in self-employment where they can't count on a wholesale market. There are fears that "street" food will end up being sold only in convertible pesos and thus become inaccessible. And so we have the joke going around: some people claim that, tired of so much adulteration, the pizza finally packed up and went home to Italy.

Yoani's Blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.