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The Forbidden Fruit for Cubans

The Forbidden Fruit for Cubans / Cubanet, Isis Marquez
Posted on April 18, 2015

Any farmer caught selling to the general population the strawberries
that he cultivates will be fined 1000 CUP* (national currency) and have
his land confiscated, Isis Marquez, Havana, 17 April 2015 – The strawberry is the
forbidden fruit for Cubans. Its limited national production is for
tourists and for the olive green hierarchy. The State limits the
production because it sells for 2.4 euros per kilogram on the
international market. Some say that it was introduced onto the island in
1965. Fifty years have passed and still the Cuban people cannot consume
this exquisite strawberry. Maybe the Cuban government pretends that its
people do not eat these fruits, which are anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogen?

Benefits of the strawberry

The strawberry is a short cycle fruit rich in vitamin C. Its compounds
have a high anti-oxidant power, as well as increased anti-cancer
activity, and it prevents aging of the brain.

In February Cubanet had the opportunity to speak with vendors Kolia
Morejon and Jorge Aspen, who said: “We are here because our client left
us loaded. We have to sell the product to passersby before they go bad.
We sell the small tin for 1 CUC*, the big one for 3 CUC.

Cubanet decided to investigate where the strawberry is cultivated for
the purpose of investigating how and why the people do not have access
to buying the “forbidden fruit” for their tables.

The odyssey of the strawberry

First you arrive at “Las Canas” community located on the border between
Alquizar and Artemisa. Then you have to travel along La Roncha highway.
From there on is where the communities called Maravilla, Calipso,
Neptuno and La Pluma begin. In these inaccessible places is where
strawberries are cultivated. These particular farms belong to the
“Rigoberto Corcho” Cooperative of Artemisa.

On the Calipso farm as soon as I spoke with the producer Nadir Jimenez,
he said: “I am sorry, we cannot give interviews to foreign journalists
who don’t come certified with a letter from the Municipal Delegation of
the ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) in Artemisa or with a
letter from the Ministry of Agriculture. Nor is it permitted to take
photos of the crops. I am very sorry, but I cannot help you.”

Later, on the La Pluma farm, I was able to speak with a vendor
identified as Julio Cesar Frias: “The strawberry is an exclusive product
for the tables and the pastry shops of the 5-star hotels, and for some
special contracts established with private bars and restaurants.”

And he assured: “We cannot market the strawberry to the population.
Inspectors impose a fine of 1000 pesos in national currency and
confiscate the farms. To go out to Havana to sell one can (5 kg) means
dodging the control points, the police, the inspectors and the devil
himself.” Frias concludes: “When we manage to overcome the controls, in
Havana, we sell the frozen pints for 1 CUC and the big ones for 3 CUC.”

On La Roncha highway I found a couple who preferred not to be
identified, and they had recently acquired a 3 CUC pot. They said: “The
strawberry that is produced is for the trusted people of the area. If
you have friends, good contacts with the “bigwigs” of business and the
municipal ANAP, you can have the luxury of coming and buying. We
recommend that no outsider approach anything here if he does not come
well ‘endorsed.’”

Later a passerby identified as Norberto Joel Batista added: “The
strawberry is only for the rulers of this country, the tourists, the
military and the new bourgeoisie. For us there is no opportunity to buy
the strawberry. Strawberries definitely are the Cuban’s ‘forbidden fruit.’”

Fruit for the privileged

Later, back in the city, I entered the “Betty Boom” snack bar, with very
American style and design, which is on 3rd Avenue and 60th Street. There
I consumed a strawberry frappe that cost 2.8 CUC for the large cup. The
customers obviously were foreigners and privileged Cubans.

Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies, the “Cuban peso” or CUP,
also known as “national money,” and the “Cuban Convertible Peso, or
CUC.” The CUC is pegged to the US dollar but with exchange fees costs
roughly $1.10. The Cuban peso is worth about 4¢ U.S. Most wages are paid
in Cuban pesos, and the average wage is generally the equivalent of
about $20 U.S. monthly. Pensions are much lower.

Translated by MLK

Source: The Forbidden Fruit for Cubans / Cubanet, Isis Marquez |
Translating Cuba –

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