The Ostentatious Avocado

Alfredo Fernandez

Lunch with avocado is a luxury.

I doubt that in any other city on the planet there’s an element of the typical salad that’s the object of similar ostentation as that achieved by the avocado in Havana.

Every year, this fruit —which is endemic of a tree in Central America known scientifically as the Persea americana— is situated at first place in the hit parade of Cuban salads between the months of July and October.

Families do everything possible so that the exquisite fruit is on the table at meal time.  However, Havana is not only the biggest city in the country, but also the most expensive.  This is why the fruit is so coveted and reaches such astronomical prices in the State-run markets as well as on the black market.

Avocados can cost 6, 7 or 10 pesos in domestic currency, the equivalent of $0.30, $0.35 and $0.50 USD. Therefore, what’s required to satisfy the appetite of a family of four for one meal can cost 10 pesos or more, though people sometimes end up spending 20 or even 25 pesos.

If we note that the average monthly wage in Cuba is around 420 pesos (about $20 USD), then it’s evident that many Havana families are touched by a strong sense of longing when eating lunch or dinner because they cannot always afford to buy an avocado.

Some homes offer the luxury of eating them only on Sundays, often using an avocado as a substitute for chicken, which is even more expensive, or for beef, whose consumption in Cuba implies a crime.

During these months, consequently, only the most ostentatious people in Havana can be heard saying, “In my house we eat avocados every day for lunch and dinner.”

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

4 thoughts on “The Ostentatious Avocado

  • Cuba has the best avocados ? wish I could grow them in USA like this

  • Hi,

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  • Avocados are my favourite thing in the world. I developed a taste for them in Mexico when I was 19 and 20 when I travelled there for six months, buying them everywhere in the markets for really cheap prices. Come to think of it, there was always tons of great fresh produce available in the markets there for great prices, as the government allowed the people to grow and sell what they could. I’ve never had an avocado in Cuba, even though I’ve been there four times, but I always go in February or March, which isn’t the season. When I’m there the only things available seem to be papaya, guava and unripe pineapple. I’m a socialist but I believe in the power of free markets to stimulate people to produce what they can for people to buy what they want. As far as big industry is concerned, well isn’t that what Marx was talking about anyway, the exploitation of the worker. Independent workers, farmers and small proprietors, aren’t being exploited but they are exploiting the goods and services that they can provide to those that require them and are being compensated according to how well they satisfy the needs of those that require them.

  • Alfredo I think this is actually good news!

    I remember the time when I used to be back in Cuba we used to buy a full bag with like 20 to 30 avocados for about 5 Cuban pesos in Pinar. The farmer will tell us to pick from the tree and the ones fallen down already were food for the pigs under the trees.
    See the problem was that they had little value for the farmers to pick and sell these avocados. The little value assigned was translated in the “Who cares if pigs eat it”. Plus the state did not allow the farmers to sell them in the market.

    Most of the food problems in Cuba are self inflicted by the actions of the government!

    With the increase value and allowing farmers to sell their produce I am sure less food will be loss and people will try to commercialize avocados or cultivate avocado trees so that they can produce more of these valuable fruit. This in the end should make the value of the fruit come down again.
    How about mangoes? Probably the same idea is true. Or guavas or lemons and limes and sour orange etc.

    Those things were never a priority. All of those things could be and should be produced in Cuba.
    Imagine if the fields in Cuba instead of been full with Marabu had all this other fruit producing plants ?
    Imagine one day having sufficient to export these fruits!
    But all of that could be possible if the government stops from strangling private initiate and instead becomes into a facilitator and incentive these activities.

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