Cubans in the Chicken Line

Osmel Almaguer

In the line to buy the rationed pound of chicken.

HAVANA TIMES, April 10 — For many years I’ve been hearing my father say “it was the consumption of meat that enabled humans to develop their brains.” I’m sure that he obtained such information from his vast readings, always based on his understanding of Marxism.

I don’t question that proposition, but I wouldn’t dare to reaffirm it since I haven’t come across evidence or credible documentation to prove it or to even make me believe it.

Nonetheless, there do appear certain relationships between meat, people and politics.

I’ve started thinking about this now, standing here in this long slow line to buy some chicken.

What just came to me is that countries with imperialist traditions consume large amounts of meat. What’s more, their citizens are physically much larger than people from developing and/or colonized countries.

It has been among meat-eating nations where most scientific and technological discoveries have been made. Of course this relationship isn’t absolute: you won’t eat a piece of meat and start coming up with brilliant ideas.

Notwithstanding, the fact is that in developed countries they continue eating meat of all types and in large quantities. No theory — not vegetarianism or anything else — has managed to persuade these people that eating so much meat isn’t good for human metabolism.

In countries such as Cuba, meat is scarce – as my Havana Times colleague Daisy Valera has pointed out. Only chicken and pork are barely affordable. With an entire monthly minimum wage, one can buy only about thirty pieces of chicken and nine pounds of pork.

The government provides a deep subsidy for one pound of chicken per person per month, which sells for the amazing price of 0.70 pesos (less than 4¢ USD). But of course one pound doesn’t last very long.

In fact, I’m really spending more time in this line than what that trifling amount of meat is worth. I’ve been here in this line of about 30 people, which — inexplicably — hasn’t budged an inch.

Through the window I can see some British tourists passing by carefree outside. Tall and strong, their size implies several generations of good nutrition. For an imperialist country, such good health is something normal for its citizens – or for its potential soldiers.

The sound of frozen chicken dropping on the floor just jolted me out of those thoughts. The workers are pulling on it trying to separate the parts, then they’ll sell them frozen to their advantage (thawed meat supposedly weighs a little less).

But no one in line is going to complain about something like that.

It’s not that people don’t think about things like that – they think about them a lot. In fact, the average Cuban spends the whole day beside themself thinking about such problems.

We have great ideas, but they get wasted since we’re too busy trying to survive the grim conditions in which we live, which is why we can’t concentrate on developing the country.

My father is right about one thing. Although at this stage of human evolution perhaps eating meat doesn’t develop ones neurons, what’s clear is that a country’s development can be measured in relation to the pounds of meat consumed per capita.



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.

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