Raising Fish at Home, the Malevolent Brainchild of a Cuban Minister to Solve the Food Shortage

Cuban Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia. (@AsambleaCuba/Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 22 July 2023 — A few days after standing in a very long line, I had to walk through the streets of the San Leopoldo neighborhood in Havana, avoiding the bodies of dead chicks, thrown from the balconies, with their necks outstretched and their feathers still a tender yellow color. I had spent a whole morning in line to buy those tiny beings who, according to the official discourse, were going to save us from famine.

Only one of those chicks survived two weeks in our house. He died malnourished and sick, due to our inexperience as poultry farmers and the lack of food to give him. We couldn’t take a bite of that starving, gray creature, perhaps because it had ended up looking too much like us. Three decades later, the nightmare repeats itself, but this time with the breeding of fish.

Cuba’s unpopular Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia has summoned us, speaking before the National Assembly of People’s Power, to create ponds in our backyards and dedicate ourselves to aquaculture. I am not going to dwell on the authoritarian and despotic tone with which he has launched his demand, because it is the typical way in which the bureaucrats of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) speak to us, as if they were addressing soldiers and not citizens, as if the country were an immense barracks and we were Compulsory Military Service recruits.

Tapia, who has left the worst of reputations – for being inefficient, corrupt and oppressive – wherever they have placed him as leader of the PCC, has not the slightest idea of ​​what he is ordering us to do. According to his explanation, in a few square meters we could create the pond that will take us out of the crisis and make our kitchens overflow with fish and our plates with fins. In a country with a serious problem of housing overcrowding, thinking that families can have space for something like this exceeds naivety to become evil.

To this we must add the issue of water. In a nation where thousands of homes only receive their water through tanker trucks and the pipes of so many homes have not seen a single drop for months, it would be worth asking Tapia how we are going to fill the pond. If they have made life difficult for those who built a little pool in their patio to cool off in summer, then what will they do to someone who dares to create a lagoon with tilapia and clarias.

But the main difficulty lies in the food. Tapia, from his bureaucratic ignorance, must think that fish live off the air. If families do not have enough to give their children a snack, what food will they have to satisfy the hunger of the small fry that will not grow without nourishment, will not mature, and will not be ready to – in turn – be devoured by us. All his words are complete and utter nonsense or, worse still, a villainy launched by a man who obviously does not have to dedicate himself to fishing on his terrace to be able to eat snapper whenever he wants.

I have no doubt that there are already neighbors in my building who are calculating the quantity of tench that could fit in the huge water tank that supplies our 144 apartments. Perhaps some seasoned cederista* will take the initiative to turn the deposit into a spawning, rearing, and fattening industry. Voluntarism can lead to these extremes, but decades of failure have already proven that animal food does not spring from will.

Like those chicks from my adolescence, in the Special Period, it will begin to rain scrawny fish from the balconies and rooftops. They will fall to the street, without anyone daring to pick them up, too similar to ourselves to touch them.

*Translator’s note: The term ‘cederista‘ derives from the initials C-D-R for Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and is used to designate a member of that organization.____________


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