Among Fish and Cats / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Photo by OLPL
Photo by OLPL

The catfish has conquered Cuba. The Communist Party and Youth Wing newspapers are singing the praises of its soft, white flesh. However…

The forced introduction of catfish to Cuba from Africa and Asia, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, can now be considered an ecological holocaust. The animals’ voracious appetite has wiped out countless freshwater animals on the island, in addition to non-aquatic species.

This breed of catfish, otherwise known as Clarias batrachus, or walking catfish, can weigh dozens of pounds and grow to a monstrous size. They are scavengers and, thanks to their ability to survive out of water for an extended period of time, all kinds of objects have been found in their stomachs: Spark plugs, marbles, coins, stones, plastic, the remains of vegetation, fish, amphibians, birds, rodents, and sometimes even feces. They will also devour one another when overcrowding occurs.

Sooner or later the Cuban Ministry of the Fishing Industry will have to respond to this irreparable idiocy on a national and international level. In the face of shortages of other sources of protein, the government has tried to provide the population with cheap meat, but many still find the texture and flavor of catfish disgusting and, in practice, even if they don’t have any other option, many buy catfish to feed their pets. (In particular cats, whose numbers were decimated during the Cuban famine of the 1990s, finally seem happy with the Revolution’s food policy.)
Claria Catfish

Photo: OLPL
Photo: OLPL

Although Cuba is surrounded by water, and our archipelago has more than 3,500 miles of coastline, the Cuban Fishing Fleet is a mere phantasm floating across the memory of the Caribbean Sea. Private fishermen came under suspicion for possibly smuggling people to Miami. Cuba is too close to the United States, where, paradoxically, catfish is treated as a delicacy: “God gives a beard to those who don’t have a jawbone,” is a common saying on the island, except that in this case the catfish has a moustache.

Translated by Alex Higson

From Sampsonia Way Magazine

15 September 2013