HAVANA TIMES – Almost all of our Havana Times readers must have heard about the infamous “Special Period”, which did as much damage to Cuban’s financial situation as it did to their souls. It really was a long period of extreme crisis which began in the early 1990s, and it completely changed the mindset of the Cuban people. Many people believe we never really left behind this phase in our history.
Now that a new era of shortages is silently among us, I want to share the first time I experienced the Special Period firsthand.
I come from a poor family: my mother, a simple housewife (but a fighting woman who struggled to make money at home) and my father was a man who did a little of everything, carpentry, building work, coal seller, anything it took to put food on the table for his children.
We always had a pet at home, although my father didn’t really like them because our backyard was very small and he was in charge of cleaning it.
At that time, we had Tuntun, a stray dog who was as beautiful as he was affectionate, who I picked up hanging about a dumpster. He was really friendly, and he quickly won over my father’s grumbling with his love.
Tuntun was given special attention. My mother and I would prepare his meals as if he were a special member of the family, with all the honors. And he would enjoy his feasts every day with the rest of the family, which I imagine he enjoyed two-fold for feeling loved, protected…
One fine day, there wasn’t any food for Tuntun. To tell you the truth, there was hardly any food for us. I remember that my parents managed to get a hold of some a few small sweet potatoes, which we had to eat with an improvised garlic sauce with a bit of color.
We all had to down that thing that tasted of God knows what. My siblings ate it all the same, it cost my dad a bit, my mom didn’t even try it.
When I could manage to bring those tasteless sweet potatoes to my mouth, I could feel Tuntun’s fixed stare on me, begging for something to eat. Then, I asked my father: and the dog, what’s my dog going to eat?
My dear daughter, there isn’t any food for him. If we want him to live, we’ll have to each give him a bit of our own or let him back out onto the street to see what he can find.
To the street?? I shouted, no way, don’t you remember how sick he was when I brought him home?
Well, from then on, every one of us gave my beloved friend a bit of food before eating themselves. I, of course, was the one to share the most with him.