Traumatic Period: Innovations (4th and Final)
There were many innovations. Particularly in cooking. Minced green banana rind, when boiled, turned dark and created illusions in the minds of Cubans. Season it well, and you created the impression of eating ground beef. The same happened with steak from grapefruit peel, or floor mop.
Domestic fuel disappeared. No Cuban will be able to forget the hours spent waiting for a bus, that at times on some routes came by only three times a day, already full and with people hanging out the doors.
The darkest blackouts were those that lasted more than twelve hours. Wisps of bright light that left you black drippings. Bottles with small doses of kerosene and a coiled rag illuminated the hot nights, full of mosquitoes.
Many fans were built with washing machine motors, the same ones they gave so much thanks to the Commander for when he initiated his energy revolution and converted home electric appliances to them. After their disappearance, we now wonder how we could sleep during such a time, with the noise that these gadgets produced: they sounded like an airplane in full flight. My mother had one. It emitted freezing air — yes, the noise was tremendous, but when you were sound asleep, there was no heat nor mosquitoes.
In order to replace imports the Cubans also made contributions. One of them was the “nonó”- a cheap stove named after the stingy character in a Brazilian soap opera. It consisted of a 55-gallon drum with a grid on top where the pan was placed. On the sides, holes to vent the smoke, the combustion byproducts of sawdust or firewood used to fuel them.
In matters of dress there were also contributions. Like fabric slippers, which looked like ballet shoes, but with the sole made from the inner tube of a tractor tire. My mother shortened the legs of her pants to make me shorts and blouses.
A time that left sequels and sad memories. Minced soybeans or vegetable protein, that tasted awful. Or chicken innards that, when mixed with white flour, resulted in a kind of ham-substitute, “ideal” to spread on bread for a school snack.
A time simultaneously unforgettable and traumatic. A time that marked an entire generation of Cubans. A line that still ascends and descends below zero. Creativity and survival. And between both, shortage, deprivations and more misery.
Photo: Fujur, Flickr
Translated by Tomás A.