Don’t Tell Anyone


By Esther Zoza

HAVANA TIMES – I ran into my neighbor on the stairs, on Sunday.  She had her hands full with a bag full of coconuts. I went to help her like I’ve done on other occasions, but she avoided the gesture to my surprise.  I can imagine the look on my face gave away the fact that I thought she’d gone too far. She opened her front door, put the bag on the sofa, and invited me in with a clear sign. That’s when she whispered to me: “If people find out that coconuts are being knocked down, they’ll all be gone in a flash.”

Still confused by the meaning of her words, I went into the kitchen where her daughter was straining the grated flesh of a coconut through a thin cloth. It was clear that they were trying to make milk and maybe a bit of oil, both of which have been missing from the rationed foods and can only be found for at an exorbitant price on the illicit market. 

As you probably know, almost everything is surreal in Cuba.  It’s not strange that my neighbor, the mother of two children, didn’t want to share the news and put her children’s access to milk first.  Shortages not only boost people’s inventiveness, but it also brings out the best and worst in them. 

Coconuts haven’t been in regular supply at markets for a long time. The few that are sold are by self-employed sellers, at least in Havana.  Exported, coveted by different companies, and used for fodder, their presence on any Havana resident’s table now is almost a miracle.

I remember it used to be in turron, syrups, sodas, homemade sweets, and ice cream up until recently. But… it really has been a long time since I’ve seen delicately prepared cucuruchos, brought over from Baracoa, in Cuba’s Oriente province. Nor can you find shredded coconut so easily in the Tulipan, Egido and Marianao squares. What I do remember is the tradition of Cuban families eating it, the joy when it was cooked at home. It’s pleasant aroma impregnating the atmosphere.

This time, it wasn’t just the aroma, but I was also able to taste coconut again when my neighbor invited me to drink a delicious glass of coconut milk.

Read more by Esther Zoza here.

Esther Zoza

I was born in the 60s. I love my country and its simple and sacrificed people. I like the arts, particularly literature. In music I enjoy traditional and contemporary trova, also opera and instrumental music. I respect all religions. I like esoteric and mystical subjects; I also enjoy the enigmas of the universe. I believe above all things in God. I am persistent and disciplined to meet my goals. I like the countryside. I live near the sea. I believe in relationships and love in all its manifestations.

One thought on “Don’t Tell Anyone

  • Cubans have long tried to survive, not live, and this experience is just one example.

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