HAVANA – Cubans are well known for their resourcefulness and ingenuity in keeping vintage cars on the road, and this trait also has allowed them to cope with chronic shortages of packages and containers, whether by recycling beer cans and rum bottles or washing and reusing plastic bags.
The pressing demand for these basic supplies explains the success of this week’s Pacgraf International Fair in Havana, which was organized by Fira Barcelona and brought together both regional and international players from the packaging and printing industries.
Nearly 50 companies from 11 countries took part in the Feb. 7-9 fair, which was aimed at fostering a sector that Cuban Deputy Industry Minister Jose Alvarez said at the inauguration was strategic for ensuring economic development and promoting the pharmaceutical, agroindustry and tourism industries in particular.
The lack of containers and bags is yet another aspect of daily supply shortages on the Communist-ruled island, a problem attributed to various factors, depending on the source.
Cuban officials blame the United States’ decades-old economic embargo, while citizens on the street say the government’s poor planning is at fault.
Whatever the cause, some types of containers and packages are so difficult to obtain by normal channels that they have become highly coveted luxury items, one such example being cardboard moving boxes.
These boxes typically enter the island when a person arrives with all of his belongings from abroad, prompting a deluge of requests from people wanting to change residences or who know someone who plans to move in the near future.
The lack of containers also has brought out Cubans’ recycling ingenuity.
Soft-drink or beer cans are cut in half to serve as covers for flan desserts and other delicacies sold at street stalls, while at outdoor agro-markets flask-shaped rum bottles take on new life as receptacles for honey or hot sauces in a country where nothing is ever discarded.