It’s Easier to Buy Apples Than Tropical Fruit / Iván García

Lately in Havana, it’s easier to buy apples than tropical fruits. Strange things happen in countries where the economy is in chaos. Guavas, mameys, mangoes and oranges are missing in action. It’s more expensive to buy a box of orange juice made in Cuba than an imported apple, pear or peach.

Although now, even the apples are missing. It’s cyclical. Like everything. Sometimes there’s rice, black beans and melons in the markets. Then for weeks they disappear, bringing on hoarding, rumors and this optimism that spills over the inhabitants of an island where scarcities get worse: confidence that the ship is just about to put into port.

In any event, an apple is a luxury in Cuba. They usually sell for 0.50 to 0.60 centavos each in convertible pesos (some 70 cents in dollars). They have red, yellow and green ones. I always ask what country they come from and no one knows for sure. Some say Albania, others China, Spain or California.

The source doesn’t matter to the resellers. Their job is to buy apples in quantity, to later offer them at 10 Cuban pesos or 0.50 CUCs each, in the doorways of public places of entertainment, children’s parks and busy streets. Due to the chronic shortage of Cuban fruit, the palates of some children are more adapted to apples than to pineapples and sugar apples.

The capital also abounds in another kind of apple. Those with the Apple logo. Meanwhile the Castros carry on about the toughness of the embargo. But in the slums you see prostitutes, pimps and gigolos proudly carrying their iPhones.

Around the Capitol building, I’ve seen girls who look more like prostitutes than intellectuals with their shiny Apple laptops, which make any independent journalist’s mouth water.

Recently a Spaniard told me, “I’ve been more Apple products in Havana than in Andalusia, and yet the government goes on about the crisis of the embargo.”

Cuba is like that. An atypical country. The normal is abnormal and vice versa. Anyway, I prefer guavas and Creole mangoes to the apples sold on the island; we don’t even know where the fuck they came from.

January 30 2011