The resourcefulness of people who find a means to scrape by never ceases to amaze me. Finding an “edge” to eke out a living in difficult times, identifying a use for a by-product others might throw away, never fails to bring a smile to my face. That’s exactly what happened when I read of the ingenuity of one septuagenarian in Havana, who has found a way to arbitrage his way to supplementing his livelihood. Here’s the story that appeared in www.translatingcuba.com, as told by Cuban blogger Regina Coyula. http://translatingcuba.com/petty-finance-regina-coyula/Petty Finance / Regina Coyula
Posted on February 26, 2013
The bus stop at G and 27th, three in the afternoon. Several people gather around a skinny seventy-something. He’s not selling peanuts, he’s not selling newspapers, he’s not selling candy bars, he’s not selling anything. He is exchanging one Cuban peso for 80 centavos. It works because although public transport costs forty centavos, in practice breaking a Cuban peso into smaller coins is difficult because Cuban pesos are only in the places selling on the ration book (at the bodega and the bakery) are fractions handled.
People prefer to make change with the skinny guy, outfitted with a cardboard box of his own invention hanging just below his chest, because with a peso you can only pay for one trip, and if you change it you can pay for two, others prefer to favor the retiree before tossing a coin in the fare box.
And so it goes! I say to myself annoyed at my camera. I try to speak to him but he crosses diagonally across G Street to the stop for the P-2, which starts its journey towards Alamar there.
I tried to calculate (you already know, numbers aren’t my strong point): With five people making change, he can buy himself a small coffee; with forty a pizza. How many hours a day will he have to dedicate to tramping from stop to stop, how many times will the police stop him. But in any case, the next list of allowed self-employment professions should include moneychanger, coin-breaker, or something like that.