Eating Fish in Cuba

Jorge Milanés

Foto: Bill Klipp
Foto: Bill Klipp

HAVANA TIMES — “I guess you don’t have a hard time finding fish, since you live in Cojimar,” a friend at work who lives in the neighborhood of Cerro says to me. Yes, that is what everyone assumes.

One would assume that fish would be the main source of food in Cuba, geographically surrounded by water as it is. But that’s not the case.

If we focus on the local situation, the town of Cojimar illustrates the above. It is located next to the shore and traversed by a river of the same name. It is also known as a place where fishermen live.

During his stay in Cuba, the renowned American novelist Ernest Hemignway gave the locality a reputation as a community of fishermen, but the truth is that fishing has never been a source of income for any of the families of the fishermen who live there. Very few people live in the town and, as such, it is a depressed market without any clear economic advantages.

Today, that situation has changed. The population of the town has grown and, until a few years ago, one could illegally get one’s hands on the occasional fish at the pier or some town streets, when the fishermen returned home with their nets. New commercial conditions have taken hold of the market, however, and all fish is sold in private restaurants.

Some people fish exclusively for food, others have motor boats and can bring back some “catches” they can sell, holding a fishing license, but the majority of the fish caught is sold to the town’s new restaurants. One may ask: “why don’t you buy the fish at the State fish-store?” But that would be tantamount to mocking oneself.

I won’t be able to celebrate the New Year’s as I did in previous occasions and has become customary at home, not unless I pay fifty Cuban pesos (US $ 2.50) for every pound of fish or go out with a fishing rod (which I don’t have), or go to a restaurant, where they would charge me twice as much, and could even serve me with chicken instead of fish, as the saying goes.

2 thoughts on “Eating Fish in Cuba

  • The regime claims the people of Cuba own the resources and exposes the lie by denying the people the food it produces.

  • No one here in San Francisco believes my wife when she talks about growing up in Guantanamo during the Special Period and never eating fish. You look on a map, you see Cuba surrounded by the fish-rich Caribbean and you simply can’t believe that fish is hard to come by. Even more incredible when you see Guantanamo right there on the bay. I have heard the story a hundred times and I still don’t understand why the Castros don’t just send a bunch of boats out to bring back more fish. Pro-Castro supporters love to espouse on how brilliant Fidel is but the truth is he never figured out how to feed the Cuban people how to keep the lights on without begging. Monkeys can feed themselves. The Castros are pathetic.

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