September 30, 2015
A Havana neighborhood market
The farmer's market is a compact area filled with vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, yucca, papaya, sweet potatoes, cassava,and several fruits and vegetables I don't even recognize. The air sings with the chatter of vendors promoting their food, banter between vendors and buyers, with a good helping of joking between the vendors themselves.
It is 9:30 AM. The vendors are doing a brisk business.
The smell of the earth hovers over the entire place. Vegetables and produce, some still covered with soil, lie in huge piles in front of each vendor. People line up at a small stall to pay a few pesos for plastic bags in which they fill their purchases.
Many bring their own cloth bags for the same reason. There are several of these kinds of farmers markets around Havana, this one is typical and very lively. Customers range in age from 20s to 70s. Their faces show the nearly universal heritage of Cubans of African and Spanish descent.
Jo says that Cubans do not like spicy foods but do like tasty foods. The favorite ingredients in Cuban cooking are garlic, onions, sweet peppers, which she calls "the three musketeers of Cuban cooking."
All the food in the market is organic. Farmers cannot afford pesticides.
Some things I don't yet understand fully:
•The government has a basic rationing system that provides each citizen with enough food to live on for each month. I don't know how it works in the market today. Later this week, we will visit one of the government stores at which citizens can pick up rice, beans, sugar.
• Living expenses - housing, electricity, water - cheap and almost free are heavily subsidized by the government. How does it work?
• The government provides free education and free health care. Students in urban secondary schools must spend at least seven weeks annually in rural labor. According to InterNations Worldwide, "As is the case with healthcare in Cuba, education is public and free for all citizens and literacy is at 99.8%."
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.