14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, NYC, 6 April 2017 — Resistant and thorny, the invasive marabou weed has inundated Cuban fields and threatened to displace the national shield’s royal palm. The shrub has become a plague spreading across the country, covering previously arable land, and worming its way into a topic for the speeches of senior officials. But the tenacious invader is not exclusive to rural areas and has also reached that symbol of power that is the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.
On one side of the José Martí National Library, among the ruins of a building that would have been used to house patients for Operation Miracle – an eye care program – but that was never finished, grows a spontaneous garden with tiny yellow flowers and powerful pods loaded with seeds. The marabou raises its defiant branches there as if it were pointing to the huge tower popularly called “La Raspadura” – The Scratch.
Without adequate machinery or chemical defoliants to help stop the plague, across the island many country dwellers use old machetes and makeshift axes to cut the trunks. However, on both sides of the highways and in any vacant lot, the marabou continues to display its excellent health.
In 2007, during his speech on the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, Raúl Castro joked about the panorama he had found on his trip to the city of Camagüey: “What was most beautiful, what stood out to my eyes, was how lovely the marabou was along the whole road.”
Now, the implacable enemy is approaching the presidential office in the Palace of the Revolution. Stealthy and steady, the marabou has won the battle.