Jorge Milanes Despaigne
I like sugar cane juice. Here we call this product “guarapo,” which was one of the foods that — along with beef jerky and root vegetables — was fed to slaves so they’d have the strength to work longer.
Today there are people who can’t drink guarapo because they suffer from diabetes or other illnesses. What’s certain is that for us men, it produces a “very appropriate energy.”
Today I went by “El Golfito,” an old miniature golf course near the river that divides the Cojimar and Alamar communities. Located there is a private “guarapera” with four employees who extract the juice from the cane and sell it at the moderate price of one Cuban peso a glass (about five cents USD).
When I got there, a long line had formed in which people were talking as they hoped to make their way up to the counter and be served with the same sweetness that’s concentrated in the cane juice.
It’s not often that people drink guarapo there; it’s only possible when they are able to obtain the cane which is brought from far away.
I stopped to see how those men ran the stalks between two rollers once, twice, three times, four – in short, they did it so many times that people were getting desperate under the blazing sun, which was beginning to get even worse.
People started complaining and saying: “How long are you going to keep that up. What’s on you people’s minds?”
“Your lucky that there’s no water; if not, I myself was going to add some so you wouldn’t talk so much,” responded the most obnoxious guarapo worker.
“Why are you people getting so upset with what I enjoy?” another employee added.
Someone who had gotten desperate in the face of so many insults, yelled, “Hey, are you making guarapo or cardboard?”
The line began to move up until my place came up. I bought two glasses and quenched my thirst, as my taste buds were satisfied. I certainly confirmed the gifts of that precious liquid.