small selection of clothes and shoes at subsidized prices. Generally these loca-
tions are dimly lit and rather hard to find. They will usually be located in poorer
areas of the city. Some examples of items you can buy here are toothpaste for 7
pesos, soap for 4 pesos, and women's shoes for 12 pesos. Foreigners are wel-
come to shop at these stores too.
Cuban citizens get most of their food at small local depots called bodegas . These
stores are everywhere throughout Cuba, with major cities having at least one loc-
ated at every few street corners. Each Cuban citizen receives a tiny book, called
a libreta , which entitles them to a monthly food ration which can be picked up
from the bodega . This ensures that each citizen receives a healthy, minimum
monthly food allowance. Cubans can also purchase supplemental quantities of
food from the bodega at a low, state-subsidized price. Examples of goods sold at
bodegas are staples such as rice, beans, flour, eggs and powdered milk. Some
bodegas also sell bread. Foreigners cannot shop at bodegas , only Cuban citizens
with a valid libreta book. As a foreigner, this is the only store which you are not
permitted to shop in. For every other store, if there is no “ Bodega ” sign in front,
you are free to shop.
Special Note: The Libreta System - The tiny ration book has become a vital part
of Cuba's culture since it was implemented in 1962. At first, it was a way for the
Cuban government to show its commitment to the populace, by ensuring that re-
gardless of social or economic status, each Cuban citizen would receive a base
amount of food; enough to ensure a dependable nutritional intake. During the
special period, the libreta took on even more significance, as many Cubans, faced
with dire economic conditions, came to rely on the free, staple foods provided by
the ration book as their largest, if not sole, source of nourishment. During the
deepest parts of the special period, the average Cuban's daily caloric intake
dropped to an all time low and malnutrition was a serious problem. Nevertheless,
the base food provided by the libreta system was enough to prevent starvation.
Venta Libre Depots
These locations look very similar to bodegas and stock many of the same items.
The only difference is that anybody can shop at these locations and purchase
goods in whatever quantity they want. All items sold at these locations are basic-
ally sold by the state, at approximately cost price. All prices are in Moneda Na-
cional. Popular items are eggs, (usually sold for 1.1 pesos per unit or 40 pesos for
a pack of three dozen), soaps, rum, flour and sugar. From time to time, other
goods will be available such as light bulbs, hardware tools, lubricants and shoes.
These depots are most commonly found in high traffic areas and especially near
markets and panaderias (bakeries).