The Casanas Family: Communism in Practice?

Ernesto, one of the younger members of the family who uphold the Casanas tradition in the Los Palacios municipality in Pinar del Rio.


Texto y photos by Eduardo Gonzalez      (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES — Nicolas Casanas brought his children and several descendants together to take charge of the farm work. He applied a simple division of duties and assigned each one specific responsibilities. None of them earn money.

The money they make between them goes into a common fund. This is where members of this “commune” get the cash they need to meet their needs. Their lands have prospered using this method.

After Hurricane Gustav in 2008, they rebuilt the farm by planting fruit trees. There are about 7000 mango trees, 2500 avocado trees, 1000 lemon trees, as well as guava, soursop and mamey trees and rare trees on the island like jatoba, breadfruit and acerola trees, distributed over their almost 200 acres of land.

There were even exotic fruits like pears and apples, the latter was planted by the granddaughter, among cotton plants, using some seeds she received from her grandfather. There are still some rows of posts connected with wire, the remains of old thriving vineyards. They now plant tomatoes, beans, malanga, root vegetables and leafy vegetables within this space, alternatively.

“This place is Communism at its best,” Anibal says, one of Nicolas’ sons. “The old man is the one who deals with the money. We are like a community who generate revenue which makes our lives easier.”

And even though this isn’t Communism as it is described in theory (they still use money here at least and there is a hierarchy: the father is in charge), the Casanas family seem to get by and work well together.

Anibal and his son, Ernesto.

Food is bought using this “common fund”. Money to buy materials to build everyone’s homes has also come from this fund. They have already built the main home, which is comfortable and spacious on the elevation, and they will now improve the others.

They have also handed out different tasks so as to optimize their ecosystem. Ernesto, one of the grandchildren, is responsible for watering the crops, while his father, Anibal, deals with the contracts, selling consumables and sanitary control.

“We spend the whole year farming, even Sunday mornings. In the afternoon, I go out to have a bit of fun. I find it comfortable working for myself, I’m more motivated. The countryside is where I feel most at ease,” Ernesto says.

Working from very early on, he protects himself from the sun wiith a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and olive-green pants.

“We do everything as a family here. We only hire more people when harvest time comes around because we need to,” the young man says, who is just over 20 years old and studied agronomy at a technical school.

In this separation of duties, one of his uncles is responsible for upkeeping their old machinery. He repairs the tractor or horse carriages in his workshop; he makes new pieces on the lathe or he welds and mends the old ones. Another uncle is responsible for the farm’s livestock, taking care of the animals, the cattle and milk production, whose son also helps him.

Having developed a commune based on the family has given them solvency, but it hasn’t saved them from national agricultural problems. The Casana family believe that a faster way to get hold of resources and process requests from those who make the decisions, would increase overall food production.

Ernesto and another one of Nicolas’ grandsons. Photo: By the author.

“Before starting your harvest, you need to have the technological package. There needs to be a better management system, so that the productive base is able to get supplies more directly; establishing everyone’s role clearly: I plant, you buy it from me and another body is responsible for ensuring there are supplies.

“Why can’t I buy my supplies myself? It’s discouraging to see that you spend time, money, effort, part of your life working and then someone who has no awareness of what is going on, decides to limit a resource and this affects people at the bottom,” Anibal says.

The Casanas are independent farmers and Nicolas is a landowner in a country where 86.2% of its total lands belong to the Socialist state. They chose to break away from the productive forces who dominate the Cuban countryside in order to build a future which almost solely depends on their own collective efforts.

The family’s newest members, two great-grandchildren who were born a couple of months ago, already have a place within this unique community. When they grow up, they might continue on with this tradition. For now, they at least have a solid roof over their heads, built with money from the family’s common fund.

10 thoughts on “The Casanas Family: Communism in Practice?

  • Yes Charles Bailey, as Barack Obama advised the Castro regime and Cubans on March 21, 2016:

    “The wealth of a nation comes not from what it consumes, but from what it produces.”

    If Cuba is to improve it’s flaccid economy, it will have to allow the growth of private enterprise. But the quandary is that doing so would involve permitting individual initiative which is anathema to Marxist/Leninist dogma. The prime purpose of the Castro regime (with puppet Diaz-Canel) is to retain power and control. The proletariat must toe the line!

  • Nobody or their systems live, stagnant forever. A country needs a tax paying economy to flourish!

  • So Nick, you have decided that the history of communism in practice ought not to be discussed. You say correctly, that Stalin has been dead for sixty five years exactly the same period since Raul Castro Ruz visited Russia and was introduced to the KGB. So do tell us Nick, whether that too is not relevant. As for my getting over Stalin being dead for sixty five years, what about Karl Marx or the stuffed remains of Lenin? Maybe the time has come for you and fellow sympathizers to get over that?
    You Nick are not qualified to speak upon the views and sentiments of residents within the Highland Line. You ought to note that they are loath to elect socialists. The very essence of being a Highlander is individuality within the community. I have never been the subject of suspicion by members of my family. My Grandfather was killed in France in 1917 when serving in the Gordon Highlanders, as was a Great-Uncle my deceased first wife, mother of our children bore an honoured Highland name, her father served in the Seaforth Highlanders during the First World War and we met within the Highland Line where I was working. So you in your conceit think you can teach me about the views of Highlanders! You do so flatter yourself!

  • Thankfully this family do not live in Stalinist Russia. Thankfully they don’t live in the Oklahama Dustbowl or in Ireland during the potato famine. Thankfully they don’t live in Normandy when it was a global battlefield. Thankfully they don’t live in London during the era of the ‘black death’. Thankfully they don’t live in the Highlands of Scotland in the era of the brutal capitalist purges otherwise known as ‘the clearances’. (To this day Scottish Higlanders are resentful of the sickening purges inflicted upon them by their moneyed, capitalist fellow countrymen and remain very suspicious of folks who hold your right wing opinions).
    Mr MacD, you have an unhealthy obsession with Stalin. He’s been dead for 65 years. Why not get over it? The Russians have.
    I’m afraid it’s very much a dreary little case of ‘Historical Simplism’.

  • In Stalinist Russia this family would have been defined as Kulaks and either sent off to Siberia or more probably shot in a purge. So the title “Communism in Practice” is a touch misleading. Maybe the survival of the Casanas family when farming 200 acres ought to have been: “Miracles do Happen – even in Cuba”.

  • Your final sentence is correct Nick. Cuban agricultural production has declined year after year with an evident lack of any corrective actions by the regime. Although almost 200 acres is a relatively small enterprise, its comparative success also shows that the tiny 2, 3 or 4 acre units cannot develop as they are not large enough to do so as they represent only a form of subsistence.
    If Elio had any actual knowledge of agriculture in Cuba, he would have drawn attention to the few co-operatives that are able to utilize the benefits of scale. There was an evident lack of knowledge in his writing.
    It is shameful that Cuba’s agricultural potential is ignored by the regime. If eventually the regime gets around to actually addressing the economy, their first priority ought to be agriculture.

  • This is a positive article. It gives more of a real insight then Elio’s recent article on a similar topic.
    If this example can be repeated across the island then agricultural production will increase. If the Farmer’s son wishes to describe this as ‘communism at it’s best’ or if anyone wishes to describe this as ‘co-operativism’ or even ‘capitalism’ who cares?

    The important thing is that Cuba increases it’s food self sufficiency.

  • This system appears to be based upon that of the Hutterian Bretheren. The Hutterites homes do not even have a kitchen as they eat as a community with the men separate from the women. Having started as a religious movement in Germany in the sixteenth century, the Hutterites following persecution moved to Austria, then to what became Czechoslovakia, then following delegates visiting the US, by sea to the US. As pacifists they refused to fight during the First World War resulting in the US putting some of them in jail, where two of them died following a hunger strike. As a consequence they moved to Canada in the twenties where they have prospered and the three sects within the movement now farm hundreds of thousands of acres. In provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta, they have gradually purchased much of the dairy and poultry sector quotas under the supply management system which bedevils Canada always in trade negotiations.
    But it appears that the Casanas have found a way around the restrictive agricultural policies of the Castro regime. It would be interesting to know whether the Casanas follow the Hutterite practice of limiting education to Grade 8. Maybe the Castros regard them as similar to a Kibbutz!

  • You are totally right. If this comune get to “wealthy” to feel makes some people uncomfortable the land will be confiscate and they would be accused of enriquecimiento Ilegal. I see this movie before.

  • Don’t get to happy about owning your own land,you owned until someone decides it is not yours any longer

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