Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — “Look mom, a big ram!” yelled a kid at the top of his lungs, thrilled at seeing the animal through the bus window. He was going to Pinar del Rio’s Viñales valley for a daytrip with his family. His comment made some passengers laugh.
They thought it funny that, at his age (6), he wasn’t able to tell a cow and ram apart.
His mother leaned towards him and whispered in his ear: “That’s not a ram, Kevin, that’s a cow. Don’t you remember when your uncle showed you the cows at his farm last year?”
The boy listened, a marked look of innocence on his face, searching for the image of a cow in his mind. He couldn’t find it. He seemed confused.
The passengers who laughed said:
“It’s natural for a kid in Cuba to confuse the two animals. What’s unacceptable is that I, a thirty-year-old man, should also be a bit confused,” one of them said, “It’s been years since I’ve seen a cow and I don’t remember what they look like.”
“If it’s confusion we’re talking about,” another one said, “that whole business of ‘chicken in lieu of fish’, the fish we’re supposed to get through the ration booklet, that’s just plain chicken. You have to make that point clear to kids, because, with time, they can start thinking chickens come from the sea. At least the ram and cow are both land herbivores, so the kid’s not that far off.”
The kid was looking at the faces of those who talked, not realizing he had sparked off a debate. Interested in seeing a cow in its natural environment, he turned towards his mother and asked:
“Are there cows where we’re going, mom?”
“Yes, love, there are many cows in Viñales and you’ll get a chance to see them,” the mother tenderly answered.
“Mom, do people eat ram?”
“Cows also,” she said.
“Mom, why don’t you ever buy cow meat?” The mother smiled, pretending not to have heard the kid. She changed the subject.
We adults know cows well: their habitat and their precious beef. Though there is research suggesting beef is a carcinogen, it continues to be consumed.
Not in Cuba, though, not in your dreams. The only affordable way to get your hands on some beef is getting it prescribed by a doctor. Otherwise, you have to buy it at very high prices in hard-currency stores, when they’re carrying it. Luckily, I am not a fan of beef.
It’s better to stick to fish.
Looking at a cow in Cuba can be enough to raise suspicions and land you in jail.