Shopping Cuban Grocery Stores

Shopping Cuban grocery stores provides a different shopping experience than any places I’ve visited.

With over 60 years of the prolonged Revolution, the Cuban people have learned how to adjust to life without everyday items that we would barely recognize as necessities – much less luxuries.

The shelves are sparse in Cuban grocery stores and items are at risk of running low.

The shelves are sparse in Cuban grocery stores and items are at risk of running low.

When traveling in foreign countries, I love to explore the neighborhood grocery stores to see how the locals buy their food and how it’s packaged. I enjoy all the unfamiliar labels of condiments, wine, pastas, olives, cheeses and coffee – bringing back little tastes of my trip in my suitcase – filling my shoes with glass condiment jars and using my dirty laundry as bubble wrap for wine. The shopping was different this trip.

Running out of product in the Cuban grocery store.

Running out of product in the Cuban grocery store.

Think of a small 7-11 with shelving covering the perimeter holding staples of beans, rice, and tomatoes.   Bottles of water, Cuban rum, like Havana Club, and cans of Cuban beers were prolific on the shelves. Visualize a couple of reach-in freezers in the middle floor space-one filled with frozen whole chickens and one filled with some sort of frozen chorizo. No gum, no impulse items. Don’t expect a wide selection of brands.

Some items such as deodorant and shampoo are only available from behind the counter in Havana.

Some items such as deodorant and shampoo are only available from behind the counter in Havana.

These are government run establishments. In one of the stores, I was caught raising my camera to take a picture and was scolded.

Customers wait for the clerks to pull out the popular item they want to purchase from the different cases..

Customers wait for the clerk to pull out the popular item they want to purchase in a ‘department store’ in Havana

Some Cuban grocery stores resemble ex-department stores with vintage waist-high jewelry cases staged around a large show room manned by a clerk. These cases contain items such as shampoo, deodorant, hair dye, nail polish, razors and even toilet paper.  Smaller stores had these items behind the check-out counter. Only the clerk can retrieve these for the customers.  Cuba doesn’t want to encourage a black market for these sundries so they control the inventory and keep theft down. Cuban consumers are at the whim of how the government does business with the companies that have agreed to export items to the island. If they run out of toilet paper on the island….well, so be it.

So..BYOS (bring your own sundries)

 

Speak Your Mind

*


*

Loading Facebook Comments ...