Short Words for Uncle Banano / Dora Leonor Mesa


Unmoved. Challenging the laws that prohibit street sales, looking for the shelter from the bad weather, for a while Uncle Banano has been moving forward with his wheelbarrow and good humor. He shouts out of tune: I selllll bananaaas, the bessst!!!

Cuban bananas are expensive and Uncle Banano knows their price better than anyone. It is still not clear to me why his tenacity reminds me of a forty-something Cuban woman when we casually walked into an ETECSA (Telecommunications Company of Cuba) office (callpoint). She used a cellphone for her business even though there was still the shameless law in effect where their purchase and use was reserved exclusively for foreigners, unhappy and surprised at the absurd injustice. “Things of the Red Caribbean,” the lady commented with cynical jocularity.

Through her I also found out that the above-mentioned law — ETECSA or the Ministry of Communications? — was “seasoned” with an almost secret clause, much used by state vendors. It was the second time that she had paid to activate the phone line at a price similar to that of the jewels of the Queen of England. On the purchase contract, the owner was John Doe, a friend that walked away happy for the favor and when, so stupid, she returned to the ETECSA store with the property received, she encountered the same happy face that had sold her the device, this time saying:

“I’m sorry. John Doe has to personally come to do the paperwork.”

“The type of paperwork doesn’t matter. If it weren’t for the number of people tricked, it would seem to be a Les Luthier skit,” she stressed.

She calmly described how with a single blow, her only means of communication disappeared, and although the weight of the lost money was daunting, in a few minutes she left to try the property trick with another cell phone… a luxury in Cuba according to fools.

Uncle Banano jokes and does not give up; he only thinks about his affairs, his earnings, his merchandise. However, at the moment, day by day, he stops selling. The kids run to hide when he approaches. The persistent merchant pretends to look in the humble nursery. He takes a bunch of bananas from his wheelbarrow, half magic, half game. Free for his favorite customers! The kids are excited by the known prank and the no less-expected gift of the sturdy golden sweets. The shouts of “Uncle Banano is here!” ignite a party. Lunchtime. The assistant that watches the children, slowly collects the treasure and smiles gratefully. So it happens year after year, day after day.

Each bunch that the seller regularly gives to the nursery is almost half a day’s wages at a state job. There is no way to know how much the boys and girls know about Uncle Banana. It is likely that they never forget the delicious flavor of that fruit or the ecstasy that precedes them. It is nice what they learn from the beauty of the gesture although they do not recognize the invincible banana man. Who knows if they will be able to tell their own children about that good citizen, who gave them humble bananas, so appetizing, so dear, at times unreachable.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

January 20 2012