The year I was born the first Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba was held and the centralization of trade and services became absolute. The only thing one could acquireâ€”outside the ration marketâ€”were some books, newspapers and movie tickets. All other products and services fell under the austere sign of the restricted, enclosed within the subsidized quota we received every month. Even to buy a razor blade, one had to present the ration card where the seller marked the number corresponding to the sharp blades.
Something similar happened with food and especially with the fruits of our fertile fields, distributed in limited quantities to each consumer. The potato was one of those most controlled by the State. During my entire life this tasty tuber was exclusively available on the counters of the ration markets; they arrived every three or four months to do us the honor of their presence and their taste. I dreamed of purees spread with butter with fried potatoes hanging over the plate. I thought their soft texture was harvested from the remote Siberian planes and not from the furrows of my own country.
The private farmers were compelled to sell their potatoes to the state, which strongly penalized those who violated this strict requirement. So we got used to seeing them appear on our plates a few times a year and keeping them in our culinary fantasies. That was until a few weeks ago when Raul Castroâ€™s government decided to liberalize their sale and removed them from the increasingly empty ration market. Now we do not need to show a document to buy pounds of potatoes, but we must wait for them to return, before we can put them in our bags and take them home.