By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I recently watched a brief report on ADN, one of the independent digital media platforms that keeps us updated on the situation in Cuba.
One of its reporters approached Cubans on the street. After telling them that breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, he asked them: What did you have breakfast today? Most of them replied without any fear or shyness.
Their responses were revealing, although predictable. Almost all of them confessed they hadn’t had any breakfast. Others said a piece of bread, some a piece of bread and water with sugar, or coffee. Very few responded milk or anything else.
Overall, they explained there was nothing to eat, that everything was super scarce and too expensive to buy, that only people who receive remittances can have breakfast, that they had to give up breakfast because it was the only way they could put something in their children’s stomachs before they went to school.
It broke my heart, but one case stirred both compassion and contempt in me. An old man, who had retired from MININT (Ministry of Interior) confessed that even though he hadn’t eaten breakfast, he continued to support the Revolution.
If it’s shameful that some shameless people defend a totalitarian system for a few crumbs or privileges, it’s even more shameful to see people believing in something that has them living like this, in the worst conditions.
At the end of the report, I reflected on my own life and felt privileged, because despite being poor, I’ve always had something to eat for breakfast, sometimes powdered milk which I get thanks to a friend, sometimes something else. Nor have I had to worry about my little girl, because she gets fresh milk from a farm.
Then, I looked at my past, at that tragic period of compulsory military service, which coincided with what is called the “Special Period”.
I was on a military farm, and we worked from sunrise to sunset like slaves. From 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM, almost 12 hours with a one-hour break for lunch. Breakfast? Water with sugar. I don’t want to get into the hogwash they called lunch and dinner.
We were a group of scrawny young men, who just about had the strength to lift the hoe.
Water with brown sugar was listed as gold under the brand name “milordo”.
In Cuba, everybody my age knows what milordo is, and nobody better than prisoners, soldiers, and students at the famous rural schools.
I’m guessing that young people today now know what it is, although even brown sugar is harder to find than ever. It’s already selling for 30 pesos per pound here in Pinar del Rio.
The most astonishing thing is that this country used to be called the world’s sugar mill and has now become a country that has to import it. Not even the paltry food ration the State poorly sells us ensures people’s demand for sugar.
I guess that the ration of awful rationed bread rolls they sell and a bit of water with sugar is the first thing many people consume before starting their day, but not everyone, as this report shows.