Banana Theft in Havana

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — For a little over a month, a series of thefts have been taking place in the area of Alamar where I live. The things being stolen are bananas. Apparently, the wrongdoers are from different places, as the traces they leave behind, and their modus operandi as a whole, differ significantly from case to case.

At first, we suspected that one of my uncles, known for his kleptomaniacal tendencies, was involved. Now, however, people’s suspicions are aimed at the people living in a nearby shanty known as El Tamarindo.

El Tamarindo is a rather dangerous place, made up of houses built (illegally) by people who have simply drifted into the area and set up camp there. These people have a survivalist mentality, lacking all utilities (gas, ration booklet, electricity, water) which the State provides all citizens living within the Law.

A number of us garden keepers (I wouldn’t be comfortable calling our lot “farmers”) have been affected by the thefts. However, no-one (myself included) has seriously considered the possibility of going to the police.

The reason for this is perhaps the fact that such “petty” thefts, perpetrated in a rather “small” area of town, are not that important, as they ultimately do not have a significant impact on the country’s economy or the lives of the victims.

This is pure conjecture. As I see it, the situation is more or less this: in a country where people merely strive to survive, with an economy of survival and a government that implements survivalist measures, what, if not the impulse to survive, is to characterize people’s basic mentality?

The question would then be: are all things outside this life-death dichotomy note even worth worrying about? You’ll notice I referred to “people” and didn’t mention any specific institution. I did this because of a simple fact: who, if not people, make up a country’s institutions, who, if not people, steer (wherever possible) these institutions in a given direction?

This is how I explain the fact that no one sitting behind a desk cares to spend any more ink “than they should” to combat these small crimes. The police won’t spend any more time, technology, resources and agents than a simple inspection of the crime scene, questioning some people and using a dog to sniff around a bit when the bananas are already sitting in the stomachs of the thieves.

Perhaps the greatest harm is not to our pockets or the food on the victim’s tables, but to our morals. If it never happens again, the incident will be forgotten. After all, they haven’t ripped out a piece of our bodies, or walked away with part of our lives. One would have to be bananas to dwell…on a bunch of stolen bananas.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.