Peppers are everywhere in Venezuelan cuisine. With crazy shortages and rampant inflation, Frente Francisco de Miranda recommends we start growing our own peppers instead of buying them. According to these folks, with “proper care” one plant can produce 8 kilos of peppers in 60 or 70 days.
As soon as I read the flyer, I thought: it’s time for some old-fashion myth busting! Only this time I wouldn’t set up my own experiment, because someone else was already on it… my mother.
My mom had been talking for a while about setting up a small huerto in our apartment. She even bought green rectangular plastic pots, but since they clash with the rest of the dècor, I figured it wouldn’t happen. Some might say I was a mujer de poca fé.
But one good day my mom placed pots in an outdoor terrace and became an “urban farmer,” planting cherry tomatoes, peppers, sweet peppers, and basil.
The huerto became a part of her daily routine. She would check on the pots and water them everyday. If she had a business trip, my dad would water the plants.
My mom’s face showed joy mixed with kind of sad puppy eyes because, as she said, “I know they’re small”.
I honestly didn’t give much thought to the whole process, but those pots were now part of the family. Everytime I saw my mom crouching near the huerto, I would take a picture and send it to my sister in Australia: “Ma visitando sus matas”.
Two pots became four, and four became six. Mom was pretty committed. And she will deny it and might try to kill me for saying this, but I heard her talk to her plants (and even sing a song or two).
She gave way more than proper care to her plants. She even panicked when she forgot to water them once or twice.
One day, my mom couldn’t control her excitement: she could see a small sprout in one of her pots. After that, she would always tell us how much they were growing.
About five months into the experiment, we made homemade pizza and added the basil my mom had grown. Pretty good pizza, I might add.
But my mom’s face showed joy mixed with kind of sad puppy eyes because, as she said, “I know they’re small”. Lets not forget it took six whole months to grow something one person might eat in one sitting.
A farmer recently told me “para cosechar pimentón sólo tienes que cultivarlo” and then laughed. So I asked myself: could my mom have done something differently?
Maybe, but I’m not sure what. My mom not only planted the pepper, but she really cared for it. Maybe it was the size of the pots, but in an apartment there is a huge limitation as to the size of the pots you can have.
Some -like Maduro and his combo, who recently created a Ministry for Urban Agriculture- actually think that if we can’t find produce in the supermarket, we can simply grow it at home. Apparently, the division of labour is just another crazy idea that must be proven wrong.
But let’s be honest: this is just a symptom of an even bigger problem: the economic model has destroyed Venezuela’s economic productivity and the Central Government simply continues to blame others. Los empresarios, los capitalistas, el imperio, la guerra económica, iguanas, etc… etc… etc…
This is a Never Ending story, in which Maduro ducks into the socialist bookstore to avoid bullies, sneaks away with a book called “Socialismo del Siglo XXI” and begins reading it in the attic of Miraflores… and when Maduro reads a description of himself in the book, he begins to wonder if the economic model is actually real and needs him to survive. One major difference with the original movie: no Atreyu, no Falkor.
It’s time to leave Fantasia and come back to reality. The Government must come to grips with how much damage its model is doing to our economy and must let private enterprises do their job.
In the meantime, we’ll have a small pepper and six cherry tomatoes to remind us how difficult it is to grow our own food. As for my mom, she’s over her disappointment. She’ll keep buying the fruits and vegetables we need, as long as she can find and afford them.