A U.S. imposed blockade against Cuba seriously limits the resources of people living on the island. With that in mind, traveling to Cuba for two weeks this past summer led me to question the feasibility of sustaining myself as a vegan. The travel ban and economic blockade censors accurate information U.S. residents receive of life there. Knowing some people who know vegans who have traveled to Cuba helped me prepare for the trip.
In general, dairy is not widely available in Cuba. Beef and fish aren’t widely available either. Pork is the meat of the island. Fortunately, Cuba has the BEST mangos I’ve ever had.
Cuba grows the biggest mangos and guavas I have EVER seen.
Who needs anything else when you’ve got enormous, delicious mangos?
For the first couple of days breakfast was mangos, papaya, and bread smothered with peanut butter.
Lunch and dinner were the same for a few days. More mango, papaya, roasted potatoes, fried potatoes, yuca, and white rice—starch galore.
The advantage of the first place where I stayed was the buffet style meals. I was able to have seconds and thirds and was full most of the time. I didn’t need to dig into the ProBars I had packed.
The second and third places where I stayed were another story. At the second place, vegetarianism and veganism were daunting tasks. By that point, most omnivores had gotten some sort of food poisoning and about 12 people had gone vegetarian. It was difficult for the staff to accommodate a large number of vegetarians.
The third place where we stayed was pretty tough. Breakfast consisted of an egg and a piece of bread. By that point I had had enough peanut butter with bread and resorted to eating my ProBars. Lunch and dinner were the same meal: white rice, bread, cucumber, and mango.
I got a little creative and when avocado was available made myself cucumber and avocado sandwiches.
During the trip, it was important to keep in mind my U.S. privilege and check myself whenever feelings of frustration or hunger kicked in over having to eat the same meal continuously or having no food to eat. I had the biggest cravings for beans a few days into the trip, but none were available. On a day trip to Havana, I eagerly went to restaurants looking for beans with no luck. The picture above shows a small bowl of beans on one of the two occasions they were served.
It was amazing to be in a place where tv, radio, and print advertisements are nonexistent. A country where all have access to healthcare, the literacy rate is over 97%, and the political education of the people is a priority. I met a young doctor to be from El Salvador who was attending medical school in Cuba. I’ve been to El Salvador a couple of times and have seen schools without electricity or basic supplies, homes without furniture or running water, children without shoes — people living in unacceptable and unnecessary poverty. I asked the young man to compare poverty in El Salvador to poverty in Cuba. He looked at me and in Spanish said, “The poorest people in Cuba would be middle class in El Salvador.”
U.S. vegans and omnivores alike have the constitutional right to experience Cuba and have a glimpse at a slice of what another world can look like. Moreover, the people of Cuba have the human right to obtain basic resources for their survival.
End the economic blockade!
End the travel ban!
Free the Cuban 5!