The Era of Soy? / Reinaldo Escobar

“I know the naysayers are coming now to pour cold water on my illusions,” a neighbor parodied in a tango tempo, on hearing a Cuban television report revealing a plan to flood with soybeans what has been taken over by marabou weed, where sugar cane was once planted in the fertile lands of Ciego de Avila. The long documentary had its premiere at the end of the last meeting of the full Council of Ministers and tasted of a long-hidden letter, revealed at just the right time.

After the program he told me he had committed the inexcusable error of not recording it, as the promises of the Havana Cordon* had never been recorded, nor the Ten Million Ton Harvest*, nor that flood of milk the intensively grazed F1 and F2 cows* would bring, nor the promises of amazing pedagogical results from the Schools in the Countryside*, nor the solution to the housing problems with the Microbrigades*, nor the micro-jet bananas* in the food plan, nor the success of the new Chinese locomotives* and so many others of the “Now we’ve got it…!” heard over the course of a half century.

Soy and corn as alternate crops is a brilliant idea, especially it if can be brought to pass without relying on volunteers and paying attention to profitability and ecological environmental sustainability; but not another “test project” that will be completed “no matter what the obstacles,” in order to prove that someone was right. Hopefully my neighbor’s tango parody will not end up like the original of, “Everything is a lie, to lie is to cry…”

Translator’s notes:
Havana Cordon: Fidel’s plan in the late 1960s to plant coffee trees in a cordon around Havana and to grow coffee as an export crop. It didn’t work; coffee doesn’t grow at sea level.
Ten Million Ton Harvest: Fidel’s “conservative” plan to have the largest sugar harvest in Cuban history in 1970. It failed.
F1 and F2 Cows: Fidel’s plan to “flood” the country with milk from hybrid Brahmin-Hereford cows. It didn’t work and milk is severely rationed in Cuba.
Schools in the Countryside: For decades Cuban teenagers were sent to boarding schools in the countryside to study and work in the fields. The program has been discontinued.
Microbrigades: “Self-help housing” through assigning groups of people from each workplace to build large apartment houses. Reinaldo was assigned from his workplace and lives in one of the apartments built. Still, Cuba has a tremendous shortage of housing.
Micro-jet bananas: Fidel’s project to import an Israeli growing method to flood the country with bananas. Bananas are in short supply in Cuba.
Chinese locomotives: Cuba has imported over 50 locomotives from China and they do help, but the trains continue to run late, often days late.