If It Weren’t For The Mango

Empty pallets in the EJT (Youth Labor Army) market on 17 and K streets in El Vedado (Havana, Cuba). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 6 July 2021 —  Of all the horrors experienced in Cuba during the crisis of the 90s, there was one that was announced as a possibility but that did not materialize: the dreaded Option Zero, in which the country would be totally shut down due to lack of fuel, families would be relocated to camps, and the collective pot would become the sole supplier of the little food that we would put into our mouths.

In my adolescence, I imagined a future of skeletal people around a campfire where water with some scraps was boiling, while the loudspeakers continued transmitting the speeches of the leader, a picture of health, with his calls for the sacrifices of others. Fortunately, before reaching that scenario, in the worst style of Cambodia under Pol Pot, a timid economic opening took place that saved us from the community soup pot. The fears did not stop with the flexibility measures, but were just temporarily put on hold.

This Tuesday morning, I toured various markets in Havana. The practically empty stands and the long faces of the customers brought those fears back to me. Are we on the brink of Option Zero? “At least we have the mangoes,” a neighbor replied when I shared my concerns. With the summer and the arrival of the rains, the trees are loaded with that fruit that “Castroism has not managed to destroy,” added the man.

However, the mango season lasts only a few weeks. After the last fruits fall from their branches, with what are we going to fill the hole left by those slices, yellow and sweet, that we now put on the plate? I fear that the humanitarian crisis that has been circling us for months is here. Every day that passes without the authorities recognizing the severity of the collapse is lives that are lost, and not only because of a resurgence of Covid-19, which the regime has let get out of hand, but because of the lack of nutrients and medicines.

These are moments to put aside arrogance and political pride and to ask for urgent international aid, to stop making up headlines and to put an end to the tactic of inflating the statistics of national production. The countdown has begun and we barely have the time for the last mangoes hanging from the bushes to ripen.


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