Planting Everything during COVID-19

By Osmel Ramirez

HAVANA TIMES – “Things are bad.” This is the most common phrase you will hear all over Cuba because we have always been under a squeeze, at least for as long as I can remember.

It’s like a kind of national sentence or curse, which has been hanging over us ever since 1959 mostly, when “those visionaries” who wanted to save and improve our country, came into power. But the exact opposite has happened, and it’s like our “beautiful Cuba” has been swimming with a rock attached to its ankle, up until the present day.

This capacity the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has to make things worse, is truly astonishing. When you think that the bolt can’t be tightened anymore, and you think that things will snap if they twist a little more, nothing! They carry on tightening and nothing happens. The resistance of our people is like a “never-ending” screw. The Party even recognizes this, although they attribute their failures and misfortunes to “the enemy”.

Now, the Government is making calls for the Cuban people to “boost farming efforts.” This isn’t anything new, they have always said it and these words are carried away by the wind, as if they were only uttered for the press or to raise the population’s hopes.

Doing this would imply “changes” that aren’t possible even with a noose around their necks, like they are now. The PCC wants to do this because holding onto power is their top priority, and everything else is subjected to this key principle.

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the world, causing health complications for people and also the economy. But the impact on our economy appears to have been a lot worse than in many other countries, but this crisis dates back a long time and this pandemic is just like rain on wet ground. No matter how much the government strives to change this reality in people’s minds with propaganda strategies, poverty is the only irrefutable truth that we experience every day. 

It’s a very hostile landscape and, personally-speaking, I believe having a plot of land is a real blessing. An oasis to face the “desert” of this crisis. I normally try to plant something commercial that allows me to sell it and fix a small problem that a parent always has to deal with. But the perspective is different now: it’s pure survival!

Boniato (sweet potatoes) and corn planted together.

This is why I have filled my plot with bits of this and that, trying to plant everything I can. Some tomato plants, even though they are out of season right now; a couple of rows of okra; a couple of lines of sweet potato; another area of cassava at least; three lines of French beans; another six rows of black-eyed peas; and the rest is corn. I already have pepper seedlings so I can plant them soon. I want to make sure that we can feed ourselves, even if we don’t have other things.

You can see all the farmers around here doing the same thing. There are also many neighbors replacing plants in their garden and the herbs outside the front of their homes, with root vegetables. This is the reaction to a great crisis and a prelude to a situation, which will be a lot worse.

Okra

These are also the consequences of Diaz-Canel’s famous “continuity” with what is understood to be Fidel’s legacy. This already had us in hardship and killing any hopes of real change towards economic and democratic progress after Raul, but now with the effects of COVID-19, they have brewed the perfect storm. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find food and any other basic items.

However, food is the toughest to track down and it’s essential, which is why I am planting a little of everything. We have to find a way to sail through this storm and fill our stomachs however we can. We don’t have any other choice.

We also have to fight in any way we can, in the way we feel able to, so that, sooner or later, we can “change everything that needs to be changed.” This is the only way we will have a Better Cuba, without shortages of food and freedom.


Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

3 thoughts on “Planting Everything during COVID-19

  • This is what Cuba needs– a land of Osmels. He’s got the answer to Cuba’s main problem, food.
    The PCC needs to reference Fidel’s highly successful literacy drive and call for the same with the production of food. A national revolution of farming.
    Farm every inch of land (and that’s a lot). Buy trucks to get it to market. And let anyone sell it at any price. Just get it out to the people. They need it now.
    Great job, Osmel.

  • Here is a realistic example of a Cuban citizen first and foremost of all trying to survive and secondly, if given the chance and opportunity to turn his labor of love towards a profitable business endeavor. How many other Cubans are in the same predicament? If allowed uninhibited, unfettered business opportunities would they not jump at the chance to better themselves, their families, their communities.

    Moving from this ordinary Cuban’s street level experience where the brutal and harsh economy manifests itself on a daily basis to the broad chambers of academia where scholarly and well respected economists have written and have been interviewed many times in HT with their number one solution to Cuba’s sickly economy being the encouraging of an unfettered private sector and all that that entails.

    The question, with unfortunately no answer, is when will the Cuban decision makers/law makers understand that the only solution for an economy desperately needing restitution is the introduction of a market economy nation wide. Farmers, trades people, business entrepreneurs, landlords and any other Cuban desiring to take a risk needs the encouragement from their government that they can do business unimpeded, unrestricted and with the confidence that the results of their toils will be theirs with the necessary obligations to municipal, provincial and federal government. Sounds like a win-win solution to me.

    To further my contribution, I quote from an another relevant HT article by Lynn Cruz, May 27/’20. “The Cuban people’s problems won’t be solved based on diplomatic relations between the US and Cuban governments. These problems need to be resolved between the Cuban government and people.”

    The dire economic situation for the past 60 plus years need to be first and foremost fixed within Cuban borders whereby ordinary Cubans are given the opportunity, dignity, purpose to solve their own domestic economic problems with the rich resources Cuba has in abundance. The government needs to be a transparent ally not a controlling hindrance.

    The route to success is one step at time and Osmel and his gardening exploits are but another example of how a Cuban can make positive and progressive change happen whilst benefiting himself, his family and his community.

  • This article by Osmel Ramirez leaves unanswered the key question of what the bulk if Cubans living in the urban communities, jammed cheek by jowl in their concrete jungle homes, can do in order to have sufficient food to survive. They have little choice other than to join those endless lines hoping to find something edible at Pan Americana or other shops. The mercado negra is drying up, because Cubans are unable to filch from their state employers as the restaurants have closed.
    Where is Machado Ventura, why have his exhortations to the agricultural sector fallen on deaf ears, resulting only in ever declining production? Could it possibly be that the state decreed prices are below the costs of production?
    Osmel is fortunate compared with most Cubans!

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