Casabe, the indigenous philosophy revived by the peasants of Cuba

Text: Cuba News 360 Writing

The famous phrase “in the absence of bread, cassava” has become fashionable again in these times, when the scarcity of almost everything forces Cubans not only to surrender with what they have on hand, but also to seek solutions and find alternatives to survive. .

One of them, specifically, is cassava, a traditional food eaten in various locations on the island, but whose strongest presence has been documented in Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

It is considered a cultural embodiment with a strong historical component and has come to replace the bread that is in great demand these days, which today is torn between two extremes: the cheap is practically inedible and the one of quality is priced at prices that are inaccessible to the citizens. By foot.

In Las Tunas, one of the regions where the custom of cassava production and consumption is deeply rooted, several peasants have gathered to ensure the growing demand for these cakes made from cassava flour.

About 50 kilometers from the provincial capital, in a rural community in the municipality of Puerto Padre, some already consider themselves “experts in the field of mediation”. Such is the case of 33-year-old Julian Hernandez, who told the press: “I approached an older man from the area who is most familiar with the process here. He taught me the first steps in the trade, I’ve been practicing and they’re already going well.”

To stabilize cassava production, farmers in the area divided the tasks: some provide the cassava and others specialize in making bourne, the kind of flat iron or skillet where cakes are cooked.

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The time of greatest demand is undoubtedly the end of the year, the date when demand increases exponentially. However, the peasants of Las Tunas permanently supply gastronomy and popular tourism points of sale, although they prepare this food with artisanal techniques.

The severe drought limiting the cassava harvest and the precarious infrastructure used by the Casaberos las Tunas – quite similar to those used by the indigenous people in the past – prevent the take-off of an activity that could more or less satisfy the nutritional needs of the population with a healthy product, low in calories and that’s part One of the oldest culinary traditions on the island.

Since it is a typical production not only of Cuba, but also of the Caribbean, several countries of the geographic region are currently preparing a file to request the inclusion of cassava in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The proposal was at the initiative of the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, Venezuela, Honduras and Cuba joined it.

Among the elements that support the candidacy of cassava is the fact that the process of its production and consumption has been alive since the practice of men and women who carry an indigenous heritage that is preserved, both in the countryside and in the cities, according to cultural heritage specialists.

Cassava was discovered on one of the first voyages of the Spanish conquistadors, who named it Pan de Indias, as Iberians packed it in large quantities for food during voyages between one continent and another, due to its preservation possibilities.

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Cassava constitutes “an element of cultural resistance that has been preserved generation after generation,” the experts acknowledge in their documentation and show in concrete terms the peasants of Las Tunas, who remain attached to the burial ground more out of necessity than love. for heritage.

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