These were the words that stuck in my head after overhearing a group of women discussing the food shortage in Cuba. At first I didn’t understand it because what I used to know was that we eat to satisfy our hunger, to get full, and then if there would be so much food then we’d have something to share.
But things are different here in Cuba. I remember in my country, the Philippines, I would eat two large pieces of chicken in just one meal, but here in Cuba, in Banes, one meal meant a piece of medium-sized chicken. Then, in my mission area, Tacajó, one-half piece of medium-sized chicken meant a meal for one. During one meal, I complained that it was not enough, but it had to be enough. Once, I bought 10 pounds of chicken for us thinking that if we consumed everything, we could just buy more. Actually, despite the shortages of food, we could still buy food in “Mipymes,” (private stores) but in astronomical prices because all goods were imported from other parts of the world, but people in Cuba are accustomed to save what little they have because they never have enough money to buy more.
With an average salary of eight to ten dollars a month, what can be bought from that meager salary? Not everyone here can buy meat. Eating meat in Cuba is a luxury. Eating meat once a week in Cuba is already a blessing. That is why when I complained about how little the food they prepared for us was—two pieces of medium-sized chicken for four persons—I immediately realized that for them it was already too much.
Cubans cook one small piece of chicken to be shared by four to six persons in a mealtime. Here in Cuba it is not necessary to feel full. What is important is that each member of the family, and even the neighbors, has something in the stomach to get going throughout the day. Therefore, I am already blessed to eat a half piece of chicken in a meal and one piece is even too much.
There are more peculiar things here in Cuba that I’d like to share, things that will make us think and realize how blessed we are in life, but that will be for another time. My dream for Cuba is that one day they will be free from all these difficulties in life brought by their tyrant and communist government. That one day there will be no more shortages not just of food but of other basic human needs. That one day Cubans will be able to say, “We eat to get full and to share.”
Fray Kenneth Pahamutang