Coffee Without Milk / Iván García

In this Cuban autumn of 2010, with memorable rains in the center and east of the Island, we breathe the air of pessimism. A new crisis. Another one. Fed up with material and spiritual shortages. We are one of the countries of the world best prepared to suffer. A benefit of the Castro brothers’ revolution.

Before going to school, children under 7 drink a glass of milk; up to that age it is guaranteed by the rationing system. The older children, unless their parents have money, plain coffee or whatever they can get for breakfast.

Milk is a luxury in Cuba. Cows are a luxury in Cuba. The alternative, for those who can afford it, is powdered milk, at 5.25 CUC for just over two pounds (about $7 U.S.). Or on the black market, 30 Cuban pesos ($1.25 U.S.) for a pound. When you can find it, which is almost never.

Now, according to the shopkeepers, the State proposes to eliminate coffee from the ration. No big deal. Some ten ounces a person, of horrible quality, every two weeks.

But it’s the breakfast of choice of ordinary Cubans, it’s all they have. Even coffee off the ration is in danger of extinction. It we believe the official press. Cuba had to spend 40 million dollars to buy coffee on the international market.

So, there have to be cuts. And as it’s always the people who suffer the consequences… goodbye coffee. In the 1960s, Cuba produced 60 million tons of coffee. In the 1940s Cuba exported coffee.

Forget Fidel Castro’s outlandish idea of growing coffee the length and breadth of Havana so the capital could become self-sufficient. The problem is, anything he touches disappears.

And he turned his hand to coffee. So it is starting to become scarce, we have to have hard currency to buy it. Who can do that. But what with the poor people, without access to dollars or euros, drink when they get up in the morning? Maybe hot water with lime or something like that. Or “rooster soup” (hot water with brown sugar).

I’d like to know if the black nectar has also disappeared from the offices of the Communist Party Central Committee and the other senior agencies, where the leaders take a little cup of the brew and save the rest in their large imported thermoses.

Strong coffee, good quality. Of course the bosses don’t have to cinch in their belts. They’re the leaders. They’re different.

Photo: Inflekt, Flickr

October 9, 2010