Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

21 de Febrero del 2000

THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT OF HIS LABOR. By Rafael Contreras Bueno, Cuba Free Press.

Pinar del Río.- Andrés Serrano has a big family: Five children, his wife and an invalid mother. Andrés, a farm manager is one of the best poultry breeders in the entire area.

Since the day the government set up the state farm nearby, everyone knew that Andrés would work there with the chickens. Now he has been at the farm now for some time. He always talks about the quantity of chickens that have passed through his hands. He says it is nice to take each newly born chick and set it on the path until it has grown ready for consumption.

He says, "There you see the fruit of your labor, don't you?" But recently Andrés the guajiro realized how distant the fruit is. One Sunday Andrés decided to go and visit the city. For days there had been a food problem in his home; none of the kids had tasted meat in a while. Usually when a rare piece of meat appears on the table, he gives it to them and the elderly invalid mother. Andrés and his wife are satisfied with seeing them eat. "First served are the 'old lady' and the kids," he says.

That Sunday when the country man arrived in the city he walked through the the markets but did not find what he was looking for. He had come prepared, having thought of another possibility. He had brought some money and thought he might buy a chicken and take it home. More than likely the chicken would be one of the many he had helped raise. It would be like tasting the fruit of his his labor.

So he went to the city's main street and his eyes filled with wonder. It had been some time since he had visited and he never imagined there would now be such a number of new stores, displaying things he had never dreamed of seeing in his life as a rural peasant. Amazed, he arrived at the store for provisions and almost couldn't enter. The door mechanism proved to be strange and complicated for him. But someone helped him and at last he found himself inside.

All types of meats were displayed. The guajiro approached the refrigerated counter and saw what he was looking for through the enormous glass. There a juicy smoked chicken showed all its golden splendor. Andrés knew it right away. That was the chicken he deserved. There was the fruit of his labor. It was right that he should taste it.

But a moment later he was swept with disappointment when the young shopkeeper told him the price. That store only accepted U.S. dollars and Andrés had never carried a dollar on him. His salary is 138 pesos a month and with that he must support his children and mother. The chicken cost $5, which is 110 pesos at the exchange rate.

Andrés knew then that he would never be able to buy a chicken. He left the store slowly, as if counting the steps, with shame and embarrassment. The shame passed quickly but still, he was carrying it inside, like an imbedded thorn. He felt that unsatisfied desire, an uncertainty, anguish. He left in the direction of his house knowing that when Sunday ended and Monday arrived, he would go very early to the farm.

He would have in his good breeder's hands other recently hatched chicks. But something was changed. So from the previous satisfaction of having made the chickens grow, he now felt a bitterness in knowing that the fruit of his labor would never be within his reach.

What he earns doesn't provide enough for him. How many more Sundays will this guajiro have to go through knowing that he will never see a chicken on his table? He can't breed them in his yard as he did before; that's prohibited. The two or three birds that some people may have are considered only for "emergencies" and it is impossible to sacrifice them.

Besides, those who dare raise them run the risk of being robbed and then later having to pay the fine for letting a chicken "escape." No, Sundays with chicken on the table have become a pipe dream for Andrés.

Rafael Contreras Bueno, Cuba Free Press.

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