Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado, Translator: Unstated
I turned the corner located half a block from my house and I heard
somebody yelling to another neighbor, " Mercedes, they are giving out
chicken instead of fish." The piece of chicken that the Cuban State
sells us at subsidize price and by their orders we must consume it in
one month, is only a pound per person and anybody can eat it in a single
meal. When they send chicken (I prefer this) in substitution for fish,
the amount is eleven ounces per person for the same period of time.
Cuba is an archipelago and for this reason seafood shouldn't be scarce,
but because of the State's indifference and ineptitude, we are suffering
of shortages and rationing of these and other essential food items.
Moreover, is it (the Yellowtail, the one always offered) the only marine
species in the sea? And the lobsters, and the shrimp? And the high seas
fish like the louvar, the kingfish and the tuna, etc? And the fish
raised in the aquaculture dam lakes? And the freshwater ones?
It is like suffering from a prolonged and antagonistic irony of living
on a poultry farm and keeping to a fish diet. In addition we are
assigned half a pound of ground beef a month — it is more like a paste
mixed with soy — half of mortadella (if we put it on a piece of bread,
we can eat it as a snack) and 10 eggs per capita monthly. And the beef
and the pork? And the lamb and the goat? So much inefficiency and
manipulation didn't affect our memories, because we know that there are
a lot of species in the seas, and there are also varieties of poultry
and different types of edible quadruped mammals.
It's true that there is a parallel State market which retails some of
the released products in national currency. But the prices are abusive
and only a minority can acquire them. Also coexistent are the ones
selling in foreign hard currency — the workers get paid a salary between
500 and 600 cuban pesos — where there's a variety of meats, and a kilo
of chicken costs $2.75 and a kilo of beef $9.50, but these prices are
equally high, therefore out of reach for the average Cuban, who has to
acquire the hard currency at 25 pesos for one CUC (equivalent to a
dollar) in the currency exchanges. On top of this we have to add that
not all of the stores sell these type of products and moreover, they are
not always available.
The butchers, who in spite of their mediocre salaries almost all wear
heavy gold chains — they look more like last generation rappers or
reggae performers — and drive cars that cost around the same (sometimes
more) than the ramshackle and stinky State meat markets where they work,
pass days or maybe weeks waiting for the merchandise to arrive at their
empty and impoverished retail establishments.
When the store is replenished there's a private party, because from the
day's work "by error of the smart scales" and "other moves" with the
suppliers, they will have enough merchandise left to auction on the
overpriced black market. But they are only the result or part of the
problem, which is the responsibility or irresponsibility of the
authorities. The same way they imposed on us the "walking catfish,"
meant to reduce our carnivorous cravings and like a terrestrial reptile
it "walks" into backyards, sewers and paddocks and feeds on, among other
things, feces and rats. God forbid! I don't consume it, but I know a lot
of my compatriots who actually do.
Cubans, who with our "bread diet" look "healthily plump," already forgot
the taste of beef, because here the cows, like in India, look like they
are sacred, at least for the common citizen. They not prevented "the
mad-cow" disease and the population "is mad" to recover its right to eat
meat in the daily diet or with the frequency they can afford to pay for
it — as it was before 1959 — not when the Cuban State decides the
frequency and the amounts we can consume.
It looks like beef and other delights, are lacking because of "the bad
governments" preceding them; thus the leaders "screwed it up" so
concerned are they about our health that they got rid of it to insure
our quality of life. Therefore, it is an acquired reflex that we must
prioritize the color red only to digest politics and ideology. These
nutritional limitations awakened our voracity for this vital food,
because all these years they tried to implant in us, with neither Yin
nor Yang, a vegetarian diet or macrobiotic without the right to respond
or to choose it; but as with the problems with the seafood and the fact
that we are an agricultural country, we also have difficulties with
vegetables, grains and cereals, they couldn't completely tame our taste
and eating preferences.
For that reason a lot of nationals don't care if the chicken is
genetically modified, if the fish was floating "meekly" on a black scum
and they assumed it was a donation from the British Petroleum; if we
women start growing beards or our husbands start having high voices, as
Evo Morales, the homophobic Bolivian President, said. Maybe some fellow
citizens, who look like they have their stomach in the frontal lobe and
their intelligence in "the elbow", when it comes to food, stress that "
it doesn't matter if the chicken has scales or the fish feathers, the
fact is that it is meat".
Translated by Adrian Rodriguez
June 27 2011