May 15, 2018

The Bodega

Far away from the modernity and commercialism that is sweeping over central Havana, the life of Cubans living in the periphery of the capital city is far from ideal. Food is hard to come by, with the vast majority of the population using their government issued ration booked to acquire food from controlled bodegas.

These stores blend in easily with the surrounding buildings – no signage, no displays, just a door leading to a dimly lit room. People come in for their groceries, get their ration books stamped, and set off to continue their days.

The rations system has been in operation since Fidel Castro launched it in 1962. The system was designed to provide each household with a specific amount of food on the basis of the age, gender, and health conditions of the people living in that house. This state-issued book, or ‘La Libreta’ as it is known in Cuba, has been part of Cuba’s societal fabric for over half a century.

When Raul Castro succeeded his brother as President of the nation, he started pushing for more decentralisation of agriculture and an increase in farm supplies. This move has since increased the food supply for the Cuban population.

But still, these types of bodegas are still the norm for the majority of Cuban households, and there is no telling when they will become an artefact of Cuban history.

Discover more stories about Cuba.

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