Daily Engineering

5 Jun

Popular inventiveness is limitless. It has to do with the crisis and I don’t think we’re the inventors of this idea, but we have to recognize that Cubans, if we don’t set the record, at least maintain a good average in making do with substitutions for what we’re looking for but cannot find.

In the crafts stalls we’ve seen parts for Soviet washing machines (which haven’t been imported for more than 20 years) and pieces of mixers cast in alloys no longer in use.  In Mayari, for the modest price of ten Cuban pesos, I bought a dozen clothespins three years ago, and they’re still intact.

The first toys I bought my son Malcolm were from traveling salespeople, and are copied made from twisted and melted plastic, but thanks to them my son has played with his crane and ladder, a game of soldiers and an Excalibur style sword.

A disabled young man selling trinkets and crafts in the doorway of his house sold me the electrical switch that appears in the photos: it is made with a piece of wood and the cap from a Perla toothpaste tube of the kind they sell us in the ration market.  The most-used switches are made with plastic deodorant tubes and work in the same way: you screw and unscrew them to turn the lights on and off.

Lacking adhesive tape, we use strips of nylon bags, in the same way we use jars, chamber pots, vases, spoons, plates and plastic trays, homemade in a foundry to alleviate the shortages that have lasted half a century.

Still, I think every Creole solution is a cry of protest against those who plugged the hole in the wall through which you can see the civilized world.

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