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
Cubanet.org, 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