Children of the crisis

When I was little my mother forced me to eat all my food.  The phrase used to clear my plate was, “Don’t leave even a spoonful, there are other children in the world who have nothing to put in their mouths.”   Within just a few years the profound crisis caused by the collapse of socialism in Europe totally changed the landscape of my table.  Rather than evoking those who had less, we would ramble on about the delicacies others might be eating.  These were times in which we talked constantly of lost flavors and products disappearing from the market.  My parents stopped pressing me to eat more, but rather berated me for wolfing down the bread we received on the ration too quickly.

The crisis came into our lives but it didn’t leave.  After more than twenty years of living with a collapsed economy, our skin barely reacts to the stings of difficulties.  The world is frightened by indicators of economic catastrophe but my generation, raised among the rigors of scarcities, can’t imagine waking up in the morning without the distressing question, “What am I going to eat today?”

The financial debacle plaguing the world has some analysts predicting the end of a system.  We are survivors of the long agony of another one, so the death rattle doesn’t frighten us.  Our experience in living with the minimum will surely be useful if the problem continues.  We may have to revisit the incredible recipes from the worst moments of the Special Period* such as “steak” made from grapefruit rind, or “chopped beef” made from banana peel.  We will put these monstrosities on the table without pressuring our children to improve their appetites, for fear they may gulp down the rations for the whole family.

Translator’s note:
Special Period: Fidel Castro referred to the years of economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its financial support as a: “Special period in a time of peace.”


  1. If there is anyone(s) who could prepare a Spanish transcript of Yoani’s latest videos…. we could translate them and post them with subtitles. AND THAT WOULD BE GREAT!

    They are available here (well really it’s one video cut into three parts). It’s a lot, about 25 minutes. So maybe more than one person could work on it. (You are welcome to provide the English translation as you go, of course…)

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I want to thank personally the person who translate this blog into english! YOU ARE THE BOMB (in a non-terrorist way!) It is SOO IMPORTANT for those non-cuban, non-spanish speaking persons to understand and pass the information of this woman,Yoani who has losts of “cojones” (that term I will love to see to be translasted!!)

    Humberto Capiro
    El Cubano de Venice Beach California

  3. Humberto,

    Thank you! You brought a big smile to my face with calling me “the bomb”!!

    I have to tell you a short story. I also translate (with help from others!) Claudia Cadelo’s great blog, Octavo Cerco. Recently she wrote a post using the word “bomb” and I wasn’t really sure if her meaning was exactly the same in Cuban Spanish but I decided it was close enough and translated it as “the bomb!”… and then found out the French translator also kept the word, because he liked it so much, (although I think “bomb” has a somewhat different meaning in French) — so we had the same post in three languages using the same word, but perhaps with different meanings… but how could I pass up the chance to have a spanish-language blog post turning into english with “the bomb!” in it”! I couldn’t!

    As for cojones… watch me: That woman’s got balls! More than any man’s army! And that’s my last word on the topic.

  4. I remember that post!
    In French it has a slightly different meaning… in English it means something or someone is awesome/great/amazing in French it means something explosive and controversial that hits you like a ton of bricks. But it’s true we used the same words in three languages and I think we should use it as often was possibly can, especially when describing these bloggers because they really are “the bomb” in every possible sense from every possible language, at the same time.

    As for cojones: Elle a des couilles, des grosses esties de couilles!

  5. In English English, the term “bomb” is not used to describe people. Otherwise, it’s vernacular meaning can be a tad schizophrenic. If an event “goes like a bomb” then it has been very successful. If it “bombs,” on the other hand, then it has been most unsuccessful. Simple :-))
    Someone who does an important job reliably, like our beloved translator, may be described as a “brick.” This may not sound very complimentary, but the allusion is classical. Sparta had no need of city walls to protect itself because “every man was a brick” and could be depended upon.

  6. Here in “THE HOOD” part of Los Angeles and other urban areas “THE BOMB” means the best, the most etc. Maybe it means differnt in other parts of the US or the world of academia. I like to use that term when it comes to ALL those courageous people fighting for their art, country and people. We should all strive to be THE BOMBS of the world.

  7. In MY neighborhood… “the bomb” means THE BEST. And I am PROUD to be “the bomb”!

  8. AND — I’m going to take “brick” as a complement as well… I don’t know how many in my neighborhood would have any idea what that means… but I think those who did would say it was a synonym for “reliable”.

  9. PS — Actually… I agree, I don’t think ‘the bomb’ is commonly used to describe people… the most common usage I hear from the kids around here is to describe FOOD… so I really like connecting the word to a Cuban endeavor… given that Cubans I am sure WISH their every meal was “the bomb” though I doubt that’s the case. I’ll ask the kids what they think and report back to everyone. Their other favorite word right now for everything that’s absolutely the best of the best — even better than ‘the bomb’ — is “filthy”. Go figure!

  10. It’s funny, but in Louisiana, we still use the word Couillon, which is related to cajones as perceived by the French when we use it, but is not meaning that at all, in terms of how we use it at least. Huh???? lol

    Let’s see if the French translator understands the meaning of Couillon as it is meant in French (Cajun) Louisiana. I hope he or she doesn’t get the choo rouge because of this. 😉

    Thanks to all the translators here. You guys are great!!!!

  11. Can someone tell this low tech guy how I can vote for Yoani’s blog step by step? I got a large mailing list and want to support MY GIRL!! The BRICK and THE BOMB!

    Humberto Capiro
    Lost is Cyber Space!! Beam me up Scottie!

  12. @11

    Coullion in the Cajun sense or as we call it in Acadian (where I grew up) is used to describe someone who’s kind of an imbecile or it can be used in a much more vulgar way… am I right? 😉

    Vote where and for what? I can provide a step by step for voting ANYWHERE!

  13. Claudia,

    Thanks for you response! I got my information on how to vote for Yoani’s blog. Want to sent it to my mailing list.

    Thanks so much to all the translators! This is a great time for Cuba and democracy there and you are doing such an important job! I wish I could send you all one of my aunt’s flans which ARE THE BOMB! I think in this case I used the term correctly!

    Humberto Capiro
    El Cubano de Venice Beach California

  14. NEW FROM THE WHITEHOUSE: Mon April 13th.
    By Michael D. Shear
    President Obama is lifting some restrictions on Cuban Americans’ contact with Cuba and allowing U.S. telecom companies to operate there, opening up the communist island nation to more cellular and satellite service, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced at his regular news briefing today.

    The decision does not lift the trade embargo on Cuba but eases the prohibitions that have restricted Cuban Americans from visiting their relatives and has limited what they can send back home.”There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans,” Obama said in a campaign speech last May in Miami, the heart of the U.S. Cuban-American community. “It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.”

    Other steps taken Monday include expanding the things allowed in gift parcels being sent to Cuba, such as clothes, personal hygiene items, seeds, fishing gear and other personal necessities.

    It also allows companies to establish fiber-optic and satellite links between the United States and Cuba and will permit U.S. companies to be licensed for roaming agreements in Cuba.

    Communications of those kinds have been prohibited under tough rules put in place by George W. Bush’s administration to pressure for democratic change in the island nation.

    But under the new policy promoted by Obama, satellite radio companies and television providers will also be able to enter into transactions necessary to provide service to Cuban citizens.

    It will also provide an exception to the trade embargo to allow personal cell phones, computes and satellite receivers to be sent to Cuba.

    “All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects the basic human, political and economic rights of all of its citizens,” Gibbs said. “President Obama believes the measure he has taken today, will help make that goal a reality.”

    Miami travel agent Tesie Aral said her phone has been ringing nonstop in anticipation of the announcement, with a tenfold increase last Friday alone.
    “People were already planning to travel more based on their ability to go every 12 months,” said Aral, owner of ABC Charters. “Whether they can travel more frequently than that depends on the economy.”

  15. shame yoani! shame on you!
    cuba is the only country where people do not die of hunger,
    Cuba is the only country resisting international capitalism instead to live in a much bigger shit all the other countries of south america, you want those shit for you people, Capitalism is the cancer of the world and CUBA with many difficoults resist against it, you use those difficoults for going against Cuba, shame on you, PERSONAL THREAT AND OBSCENITY REMOVED W FIDEL CASTRO W RAUL CASTRO!

  16. # 17 can you really say that you have true socialism in Cuba, or is it just another latin american kleptocracy. Do the elites share equally with the rest of the people ? In Angola did the generals bleed with the common soldiers, or were they too busy working the black market ? the true shame is those who empower the despots, selling their freedom, and dignity, stealing the freedom and dignity of others, for what ever little crumbs the tyrants will give them

  17. Claudia, most excellent. I am impressed. Yes, you are mostly correct. The only thing I’d add is that it can actually function as a term of endearment. Hard to believe, huh? I’ll give you an example: Maw Maw (Grandma): the little couillons ate everything on their plate tonight! Other than that, you are correct. It’s kind of like an escalating insult. 😉

    So, did you figure out the choo rouge? 🙂

    BTW, I am not Cajun but rather a Creole (Spanish/French) New Orleanian with some English.

  18. Patricio, I didn’t know about the term of endearment that’s hilarious and to be honest with you the only thing I use chou rouge for is cooking… but from context I’m guessing choo rouge in Cajun means, frustrated/embarrassed or something along those lines.

    I’m sad to say that New Orleans is a place I’ve never been. I learned Acadian years and years ago when I was a kid, so I’m pretty familiar with it. but Cajun even though it’s derived from it is a whole different language!

    Feel free to try me on some Creole though, I live in a mostly Haitian neighborhood so I’m getting pretty good at that to… hehe

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