The illusory solutions that were once called, the “Ten Million Ton Harvest,” the “Havana Cordon,” or the “Food Plan,” have been transformed today into other utopias such as the Energy Revolution, Managerial Development, Oil in the Gulf Waters, or Exporting Human Capital. They all encompass the same infantile delusion of wanting to cure the crumbling health of the Cuban economy with a single medicine.
I remember a lot of these failed chimeras, but it was the elimination of famine through the cultivation of microjet bananas that I experienced with special intensity. I was in pre-university at a camp called the People’s Republic of Romania, even though by 1991 Ceausescu and Elena had already been executed. I was working in the surrounding banana fields, which also served us as a love motel, as well as a cleaner alternative to the toilets in the dorm. In the furrows, thousands of small hoses—these were the microjets—sprayed water all the time. The plants yielded a few enormous and tasteless fruits which split their skins because of the disproportionate growth of the interior. On our plates, these watery delicacies could not satisfy our hunger, any more than they could lift the country out of its crisis.
After the hurricanes, a new mirage has appeared in the style of the wet bananas of my adolescence. They call it by the euphemism of “short-cycle crops” and propose to prioritize the planting of chives, garlic and Swiss chard over other crops that need more time and care. With this agricultural strategy they intend to quickly fill the barren food stalls in the markets and calm the irritated Cuban people. All the mouths that would prefer to bite down upon a yucca rather than an oregano leaf will have to make do with these fruits of immediacy.
I fear that this temporary measure will become permanent and the capricious pineapple, which needs months between planting and eating, will be replaced with three cycles of Chinese cabbage. Forgive my lack of confidence but, given the ample record of agricultural and economic disasters, I cannot trust that this time they’ll hit the nail on the head.
Ten Million Ton Harvest: In 1970 Cuban focused the resources of the entire country on harvesting a record 10 million tons of sugar cane, a goal which was not met.
Havana Cordon: A plan begun in the late 1960s to plant coffee trees in a cordon around Havana and to grow coffee as an export crop. Coffee did not grow well in the Havana environment.
Food Plan: A plan to achieve self-sufficiency in food production launched during the “Special Period” in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its support for Cuba. The plan was not achieved.
Googling these terms will yield much more detailed information.