News and Facts about Cuba

No Good, Attractive, Cheap Shoes in Cuba

No Good, Attractive, Cheap Shoes in Cuba / Gladys Linares
Posted on September 4, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August 2013, — The year is about to
begin and parents are now shopping around for shoes for their kids. It
has been many years since those lace-up leather shoes, known as school
shoes, have been sold. They complimented school uniforms well, were
durable, protected children’s feet and were fungus resistant.

For some time they have been selling black tennis shoes called Pioneers
instead. They go for 120 Cuban pesos, or about 5 CUC (approximately five
US dollars). Although children do not like them, they are popular with
parents because they hold up well if you reinforce the soles. According
to some people, however, they can be hard to find them in the correct
size, if you can find them at all.

If Pioneers are not available, then parents have to turn to the
hard-currency shopping mall, where quality is not great and prices are
high. Finding something that looks good is difficult. Another problem is
that after a month’s wear you have to take them to a shoemaker to have
the soles repaired.

Shoes for running errands

Similarly, it is impossible to find the kind of closed toe, low-heeled
ladies’ shoes appropriate for those daily errands that require long
walks. There is no justification for this, especially considering the
number of women over fifty in this country.

Some time ago the National Office for Standardization acknowledged that
imported goods in Cuba — including shoes — were of poor quality. Then
why are they so expensive? This means they remain in the display windows
of shoe stores so long that, on those rare occasions when they finally
go on sale, they already show signs of wear.

A neighbor, Juan Alberto, bought a pair of shoes at a boutique. He paid
46.75 CUC* for them. The second time he wore them, the leather started
to come apart.

Orthopedics, forget about it.

“Looking for a pair of shoes is like finding your way through a maze,”
says Gloria, a seventy-two year old woman who needs special footwear
because of paralysis she suffers resulting from a stroke. Gloria went to
a custom shoe store after her orthopedist wrote her a prescription. She
was told she would have to call and make an appointment because they
were not filling new prescriptions at that time.

Finally, after several months, it was her turn. Once at the store they
took her measurements and told her she could pick them up in ninety
days. Imagine her disgust, however, when, on the day she went to pick
them up, she found out they were two sizes too big and were made with
velcro instead of buckles. When she complained to an employee, he acted
annoyed and told her, “This is it. Take it or leave it.” Gloria took
them home and now uses them as slippers.

There is a popular alternative one can often find in building entryways
or areas near commercial centers: people selling shoes recovered from
buzos, or trash dumpsters, which have been repaired and cleaned. Prices
vary between four or five CUP and ten CUP. Believe it or not, there are
always customers, especially among elderly retirees.

Gladys Linares was born in Cienfuegos in1942 and is a school teacher.
She worked as a professor of geography and as director of various
schools for thirty-two years. In late 1990 she joined the Movement for
through the Women’s Humanitarian Front. She was an active
participant in the Cuban Council and the Project. Her writings
reflect daily life in Cuba.

September 1, 2013

*Translator’s note: Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban peso, or
CUP, and the convertible peso, pegged roughly one-to-one to the dollar.
The price paid for the shoes mentioned above represents more than two
months wages for the average Cuban.

3 September 2013

Source: “No Good, Attractive, Cheap Shoes in Cuba / Gladys Linares |
Translating Cuba” –

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