Cubans go to the mattresses

The hottest commodity in Cuba, the Miami Herald reveals, is the mattress. A severe shortage in mattresses across the country has encouraged a thriving black market of threadbare, stolen and straw alternatives. “Freelance merchants” improvise springs, covers and fillings out of any easily-available materials, and the government’s official factory is victim to “constant” theft. Like ...

583034_090727_CUBA_Rross223_Flickr25.jpg
583034_090727_CUBA_Rross223_Flickr25.jpg

The hottest commodity in Cuba, the Miami Herald reveals, is the mattress.

A severe shortage in mattresses across the country has encouraged a thriving black market of threadbare, stolen and straw alternatives. “Freelance merchants” improvise springs, covers and fillings out of any easily-available materials, and the government’s official factory is victim to “constant” theft.

Like the majority of local businesses, the nation’s sole mattress-making outfit Dujo Copo Flex, is under exclusive contract with the government. But the 60,000 or so mattresses made annually do not come close to meeting the gapping demand for decent bedding, with most of the factory’s productions going straight to hotels, the armed forces and even exported to Italy and Venezuela. The remaining few that can be sold to Cuban consumers are done so at a premium, costing upwards of 5,352 pesos — much more than the average annual salary. Consequently, mattresses are now passed down within families like precious heirlooms.

But finding refurbished bedding, or anything else you’d like (a fake marriage and ticket to America, anyone?), on the island may be getting easier with the launch of Revolico.com, the Cuban answer to Craigslist and a godsend for illegal entrepreneurs hawking their wares. It’s nice to see that the black market can find its way online everywhere.  

rross223/flickr

Aditi Nangia is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.

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