Cashews: The Forbidden Fruit of the Socialist Paradise / Yoani Sánchez

The furrow extends to infinity before our eyes. We would not, that day either, complete our quota, but who cared? At that school in the countryside we engaged in an exercise widely practiced throughout the country: pretending to work. When the teachers were watching we bent our backs and feigned pulling up the weeds that surrounded the spindly tobacco plants. If they left, we returned to the horizontal position to talk about our principal adolescent obsession which–surprise!–was not sex, but food.

That morning, the irrigation machine was standing in the middle of the field and looked like a wide-winged albatross stuck under the sun. My friends and I climbed into the empty cab and touched the lever, the buttons, the steering mechanism. We jumped on the patched seat and fantasized that we could “take a walk” with this piece of screeching metal and soak all the students with its hose. We laughed in anticipation but not a single drop came from the long hoses extending on either side. However, while snooping here and there we came across a can with some rare fruits. They were shaped like a pepper, but the color ranged from yellow to a deep orange and a seed hung from each one. Urban youth, trapped between the scarcities of rationing and the collapse of agriculture, there was no way we knew that this was a “cashew.”

We sunk our teeth into them immediately. Sweet and soft but later, when our mouths started to dry up, we thought we’d been poisoned. Horrified, we ran screaming. The teacher’s laughter lasted long minutes. When the astringent sensation passed, we were left with the desire to again bite that texture already captured in peasants’ songs, mentioned by our grandparents and painted by brushes of the previous century. I was impressed with that fruit prohibited by our socialist paradise. Almost twenty years would pass before I would encounter it again.

3 May 2011