Chicken for fish

la_sardina-copySaturday morning, I learned that chicken had arrived at the rationed market and I went to the butchers where they usually sell eggs and soy-based “ground meat”.  But there weren’t any customers there.  The employee, with the muteness common among those who serve the public, called my attention with a pointed finger to the hundred people in line in front of the fish store.

For some time there’s been a shortage of products from the sea and the natural sources for obtaining the nutrient phosphorus are more lost than the ark in the Indiana Jones films.  Thus, in the little grid in the ration book where they should mark a portion of mackerel or hake, they now enter a tiny portion of thigh, and next to thigh, chicken.  I spent two hours waiting, and finally entered the place where nothing remains of the odor of the African coasts, which is where the Cuban fishing fleet captures its fish… in the idealized time of true socialism.

The seller was standing on a mat made of cartons where one could read—perfectly clearly—the origin of the merchandise: “Made in USA.”  An old man with a malicious tongue didn’t miss this detail and commented, “These American chickens are certainly well fed.”  The lady took our ration book where it specifies we are three people, and threw 33 ounces on the scale, none of which was breast, telling me the price was one peso fifty centavos.  “When is the fish coming?” I inquired, but she didn’t answer me with words but rather with an index finger pointing to the sky.


27 thoughts on “Chicken for fish

  1. Mushba,

    Thank-you, yes I understand now, tortillas we call them, flat bread made from flour. Our television reported that in the US we waste 50% of our electrical power generation due to inefficiencies in our electrical grid (supply).

  2. Mark,
    Yes,it is food.Roti is what we call thor-tia’s;you know,thor-tia’s being that flat & type of bread made from wheat the Spanish eat,have’nt you eaten them at some Spanish fast food joint or something?
    Load shedding is when our electric supply companie’s shut off the power to a certain area,or the whole city,due to the fact that our power generation system’s are old & ca’nt bare with the demand of the growing public.
    Now do you understand?

  3. From USA

    Mushba–roti or thortia’s must be some kind of food? Couldn’t find them with google search. Most laborers survive by eating them? Price hike happened in Pakistan, you say. Your government is not doing enough to solve the problem: Price hikes to load shedding. What is load shedding?

  4. It seem’s that almost every post either remind’s me of something similar here,or i see something that is the same.I am reminded of the price hike.Most labour survive on ‘roti’,or thortia’s.But,the price hike has brought them more worrie’s;before a roti use to cost around Rs.2,now it’s Rs.5 or Rs.6.In Punjab,the provincial government promise’s roti for Rs.2,although i do’nt think that step has taken much force,atleast not to my knowing.Country wide,the government is doing nothing to solve or ease any problem,from price hikes to load shedding,as usual.

  5. I do no know if Cubans have access to facebook. But here is new page dedicated to
    Would be interested what Cubans this of this possibility.

  6. Candido

    By doing what you and I do we are showing exactly what you mentioned

    “that Castro’s system is something cruel, abusive, chaotic, and it’s probe that does not work ans has been imposed to us, by force and sanguinary terror!!!”

    it also show something else that everyone’s experience thru the regime is unique in some ways depending on how much you dare to react against the system!

    Again, for example Yoani was allowed to go outside the country before now she is in fact a virtual prisoner in the Island as long as she’s denied been allowed to exit the country!

    So there you have two seemingly contradictory statements
    On one hand they let her out and on the other they don’t
    But then when you go a little deeper then you can guess that the reason they don’t let her out now is because they are punishing her for her behavior that is to be a real critic of the revolution and for using her right to speak freely. So then we can see that people in Cuba do not have real freedom since they get punished when they exercise it!

    Her criticism as we all know are true so they can’t say she lies or exaggerates neither she speculate on what is happening over there and she has not responded to all the intimidations either so they got a big headache with her! :-) Imagine for a second we don’t have just one Yoani but 1000! That is the way they are going! Now we have Claudia we also have Eva and others all this valiant Cuban women and men that are writing blogs and speaking freely on the web about the atrocities of the regime! As they write with each of their blog posts they are writing themselves into history.

    The system they have will not last “FOREVER and EVER” you just need to take my word for it. There will be a time when it will come down just like other similar systems. In those other places it came down because the people in those countries did something for it to happen like in Poland, Germany or Romania etc. So there will be a moment when the people of Cuba will also open their eyes and see the many lies they been shown as true and they will wake up and when that happen they will realized that the revolution that has been claiming to be for them was never for them but for the top ruling class.

    You and I and millions of others Cuban know that but we all need to come to the realization that freedom can only come from us.

    Actually let me rectify myself.

    Freedom can only come from them the Cubans in Cuba when they stop been afraid and use freedom to speak whatever they want!

  7. Julio:

    I understand, but my point, my advice is just that at the moment of any explanation to any foreign person, that dose not know anything about Cuba,,,or even can’t image any kind of situation that had happened in Cuba during more than 50 years,,,we,,,the Cubans, must be very careful, very detailed, trying to express the idea, but at the same time showing that our subject is real, is true and we are not partially in just one side, that Castro’s regime has been like with “EVERYBODY” and will be like that “FOREVER and EVER”,,,,,sometimes, our explanations are bringing some contradictions then the people who is listening, the first impression is “He is talking like that , because he is Castro’s enemy”,,,or sometimes, “He is talking like that because he was affected by the Revolution” ,,,but, really,,,really the true is that Castro’s system is something cruel, abusive, chaotic, and it’s probe that does not work ans has been imposed to us, by force and sanguinary terror!!!



  8. 4 Anónimo
    Julio 14th, 2009 at 14:05

    have you try going fishing …………..i was in guanabo last week, brought some fishing gear whent fishing one day ,and had fish to eat all week…you d ont need to go to africa to fish all you have to do is get up early cause in the morning fishing is at is best………..have a good day……..
    Anonimo, it’s easy to understand that you have never been in Guanabo, you do not have enough knowledge about Havana and you know about fishing what I know about cuantic mechanic.
    Guanabo’s water is one of the most polluted water in the world. Everyone in Havana knows that near the coast of east Havana, in the so called “Chivo” Beach (Goat Beach) is located a broken pipe that expels 80% of Havana’s blaks waters. All this poison has polluted the whole east coast together with the residues of the oil extraction outside Guanabo’s coast. For this reason there is no fish there. But, supposing that this water would be clean water, there is another powerful reason for missing fish in this area…. Guanabo is a so called “pool beach”, it is a extension of water 2-6 feet deep trapped between the coast and a coral barrier (the “Beril”) and with a fat coat of sand at the bottom; that makes this water too warm for fishes comfort. For this reason you only find there small fishes. In order of get some fish in Guanabo’s water you have to swim or navigate a long distance in to deep water passin the coral barrier. By the way, the better time for fishing is between 21:00 and 5:00.

  9. Candido:

    I do understand your point of view but we have to go for what we see happening

    So the answer to the question

    if there are more religious liberties in Cuba compare to the beginning of the revolution?

    It appears to be so because of the things I explained.

    So if I honestly have to answer that question I will have to say what I did see.

    I am not naive and I do know the Cuban government uses many of this things for their own manipulative purposes the same way they use many other things.
    Hope you have read many of the things I posted and I am always trying to find a reason of why the Cuban government is reacting on one way or another and analyzing the possible reasons.

    They will used Yoani if they could :-) and in fact they may used her…

    For example Yoani is one example of a Cuban living in Cuba that freely expresses her opinion! We know that they have try to intimidate her extra officially and officially by not giving her visa and by comments by Fidel Castro and Mariela Castro but still she still have her blog and she can freely speak without loss of any liberty.
    So to the question of
    Are all Cuban citizens not free we have to say
    Well Yoani can write on her blog critics to the government and she is allow to do so therefore we have to say they have that freedom!
    I am not sure if she can talk the same way she writes but
    as we all saw they did talk in the microphones of Tania Brugera’s performance and nothing happen to then either.
    So we have all been scared the whole time of them not letting us talk and accusing them of not letting us have freedom and here we have Yoani and others proving that in fact we had that freedom but that the real answer is that we all were cowards that let ourselves be intimidated by the first goons they sent in!

    Lesson to all

    The only way to claim your freedom is by practicing your freedom

  10. So let me understand, the government’s ration store is selling chickens from the USA and people have to wait 2 hours in line to buy it, but at the same time the military regime says that the so called “embargo” prevents them from improving their economy…. Does anyone in Cuba actually believe these government lies? Or is the entire population just playing along (asiendose el chivo loco)?

  11. Julio:

    With your respect, I understand what you are trying to transmit , because I’m Cuban too, then, being Cuban it allowed me to be very sensitive and get the point right away about the ideas you want to express, but sometimes, a little bit of “naive intention” can be very controversial for other people that can’t even image that one country can’t be under food rationing for more than 50 year, when such a thing is the daily bread of every Cuban, included you and me (while we were there).

    Let me be more direct.For example, when you express that while the Pope was visiting Cuba, “it may be could be some kind of good faith from the Cuban Government, allowing more religious freedom”,,,you know,,,I know,,,all Cubans know, that this was a simple facade, just to show to the whole world, exactly that, the “Cold and Calculated faith of the Cuban’s authorities”, because after that, everything came back to the same situation.

    Today, still, anybody openly related with any kind of religious expression, idea, or practice, is a “third class citizen in Cuba”, because, nobody, under this kind of feelings, or ideas, can be a teacher, or a executive, or member of the Party, or work for an important company, etc, etc,,,,remember, I’m making emphasis with the word “OPENLY”,,,all right!!!!,,,,we know that a lot of people can be religious, but that kind of feelings must be hided, to avoid those dark ways of punishment that the Cuban Government has implicit for this type of manifestations, which, according with Castro,his brother ,the members of their mafia gang, and the Communist Party are “the poison of the humanity”!!!!, which could be translated in Cuba as : “The rest of the world can profess any kind of religious, but Cuba is not the rest of the World,,,,I’m Cuba (Castro), and Cuba is going to do anything I want,,,,Cuba is willing to follow only my will,,,and I don’t care if I have to use my iron fist”.

    We the Cubans, should be very careful or very detailed, explaining our situation to other people that for sure can’t believe that something like that could be true.

    Let say that the Police, using extra force, abused, hitting somebody in the street, but, in these days, always there is camera, or some kind of electronic devise able to get probe and denounce the abuse,,,that is something VERY EVIDENT!!!!,,,something really easy to probe , or to show to the exterior world to talk about the Police abusive procedures,,,then, every body knows, that at least here in USA, that Police Department or the Policeman himself would be in troubles, most of the times!!!!!

    However, how can you denounce, or probe, or show to the rest of the world, the terror, the panic, etc,,,, inoculated inside of the brain of every Cuban?,,,terror, panic, etc, that could be seen in typical reactions of the daily life as ” Don’t say that to loud, because you can go to jail”,,or “Don’t complaint about this or that, because you can go to jail, or you can be classified as enemy of the revolution which means “that’s it”,,How?.

    How can you describe or explain to someone who always has been totally free, that one son can’t receive his father in his house, while he (the son) is working outside of Cuba in a foreign country, then, his father wanted to visit him after more than 25 years of separation, however, the son has prohibit to receive, to talk, to see his father , just because some rules done and executed by Castro’s will, and supported just because the father was somebody who “escaped” from Cuba looking for freedom, but is a decent person, a working man, without any criminal record (before and after),,,just a human being who wants to see his son after so many years ,,,just because Castro’s rules, did not allow the father to go to Cuba and even worst did not allow the kid receive his father in his house,,,How?.

    Once again,,,we must be careful explaining the details to people who are unable to understand why , we the Cubans have been that type of sheep that were able to resist, receive, and support that type of humiliation for so long ,,,with our head downs and just ready to escape,,,or ready to live without hope!!!!.



  12. At one point the Cuban government was very atheistic and punish people that practiced any religion.
    Now even members of the communist party can practice a religion !
    Religion wise I am not sure they discriminate at the same level as before and to tell you the truth is been a while I have been out of Cuba so I am not sure but as we know the pope was well receive by the government never mind they wanted to use him for their campaign against embargo but still it was a good gesture of the Cuban government.
    I went to visit on 1998 and remember seen to little girls with school uniform praying inside the church I never remember seen anything like that while I was in Cuba so I have to say they are allowing more religious freedoms.
    In my time I remember the Jehovah witness did get a real hard time because they did not wanted to salute the Cuban flag etc etc. And they were taken by force to military service or put in jail if I remember correctly for not doing the mandatory service not sure how that plays now.

    I do believe they may be more sensitive to religious issues now.
    Also in Pinar del Rio there was a religious magazine that was extraordinarily good
    called Vitral and they allowed the publication that many times was critical of the government. Similar to the things you see publish on Yoani’s blog.

  13. Thank-you Julio, I hope not too. Here in the USA we still pray, so I pray not too. The US government has made declared itself atheistic and mandates atheistic government with an atheistic education system. Have 50 years of socialism reduced prayer and faith in Cuba? I’m sure it has.

    I forwarded this blog, my earlier comment and your response to Bill O’Reilly at Fox New Network. I hope they pick this up and interview you (an English speaking Cuban) because you can provide valuable insights into the future of the nationalized United States.

  14. Joel:

    I did read your comment, it is very nice to see that Cubans like you think that way,,,but the reason why I’m writing directly to you, is because you did mention that you were a member of the Cuban National Cycling Team, and I’m has been involved in Cycling during the last 40 years of my life (I’m 54)!!!! I’m one of those “crazy guys”!!!! who train at Sheridan and other places (may be you are familiar with Miami areas),,,,do you still ride?.


  15. From the USA–A very interesting story. Most of what happens in Cuba seems to predict what may happen in the USA, with the nationalization of banks, cars, medicine, etc. Maybe one day US people will be standing in lines, waiting for fish or chicken. Maybe then it will be made in Cuba!

  16. Dear Yoani,

    You are inspirational. I am Cuban American. I came to America 10 years ago in pursuit of freedom. I am a former Cuban National Cycling Team member and I would like to partner with hard workers like you. I am an internet marketer and would like to help you to benefit more from your blog. Please email me so we can communicate further.


    ARTICLE: 15th Anniversary of a Castroite Massacre of 1994 in the bay of Havana

    “In the predawn darkness of July 13, 1994, 72 desperate Cubans – old and young, male and female – sneaked aboard a decrepit but seaworthy tugboat in Havana harbor and set off for the U.S. and the prospect of freedom.”

  18. I’ve been to a chicken farm, and even though they are big operations, with careful management and a monitored diet, it does not appear to be rocket science. Just feed them a mix of ground corn and dry fish chum (fish by-products) and they grow to a nice size in weeks.

    Why the Coma-Andante at this late date, cannot even duplicate a simple – if large scale – chicken farm to feed the people is beyond me.

    Again we go back to the three stooges explanation. Every job they get hired to do turns to a big mess, with the brothers poking each other and their underlings, in the eyes following each failure.

  19. have you try going fishing …………..i was in guanabo last week, brought some fishing gear whent fishing one day ,and had fish to eat all week…you d ont need to go to africa to fish all you have to do is get up early cause in the morning fishing is at is best………..have a good day……..

  20. The message here in this post seems to be that the all powerful government is making decisions for you all the time. Being paternalistic.

    They decide very simple things like when would you eat fish or when would you eat chicken and never mind meat!

    That’s big governments bureaucrat making the best decisions for all of us!

    The people at the bottom of the pyramid of power don’t have any input in this paternalistic state of affairs! That is the working class the ones that push the country forward. So with so little incentive they are cought up in a catch 22 situation where the government does not want to pay them more because it said they are very unproductive and the workers don’t want to work because they are not paid reasonable salaries just enough so they don’t die of starvation!
    It’s been 50 years of food rationing!
    Why can’t day let farmers set their own prices and sell their own merchandise?
    Farmers get force to cultivate what the government wants them to cultivate. For example in Pinar del Rio they get force into cultivating tobacco plants and that is great for the government because they make dollars from it but mean while the average Cuban have not much to eat!
    So should that land be use for tobacco that produces money for the government or cultivating food for the people?
    I am not really sure what the government does with the money the get from tobacco since there is no transparent disclosure of the government finances and there is no accountability.
    It seems to me all this is done on purpose. Since there is no accountability they can steal from us anything they want and we will not know.

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