Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Anita Snow the Hunger Artist, or The New York Times' "Snow Job"

Let this be duly noted at the onset: Anita Snow's stint as a hunger artist is nothing but a charade, an imposture and a fraud. To all those attributes let us add too unoriginality and callousness to a degree seldom encountered in that most cynical of all enterprises known as American journalism. The idea, of course, did not originate with Ms. Snow; if her mind ever actually hosted an original idea it would likely implode because it is not used to any kind of expansion. No, it was a New York City councilman who decided to subsist on the $21.00 which individual Food Stamp recipients are allotted in New York, which seems almost a kingly stipend compared to the $17.00 per month which working-class Cubans earn per month. The councilman complained that the diet he was obliged to follow on $21.00 per week was "unhealthy," but he did not complain that it was insufficient. A lot of pasta, rice and potatoes can be bought for $21.00 a week, more, in fact, than 5 people could eat in a week. It is not the fare to which the councilman is accustumed — bird food ornately served in bird-size portions at posh restaurants where eating is the last thing on people's minds; but it will keep body and soul together with no great exertions other than opening the mailbox and procuring the food itself, which shouldn't take too long in a city where there is a grocery store on every corner. If the food stamp recipient is elderly or handicapped his diet is further supplemented by "Meals on Wheels," which provides three daily hot meals to the homebound; if a child, he is provided with a Wick voucher for additional foods such as milk, cheese and fruit juices, among many others. In short, everyone who is not a bum gets at least $100.00 more in food in addition to the $21.00 food stamp stipend alloted to individual recipients per week.

If a Cuban had such resources at his disposal from a beneficent state he would consider himself amply and completely provided for. It is only in the U.S. that such public largesse would be regarded as insufficient by a councilman whose sole complaint was that the food gave him indigestion unaccustumed as he was to eating actual food rather than representations of food.

We suspect that food does not play a big part in the life of The New York Times' dilettante of a reporter. Even the meager food basket of rationed items in Cuba — which, incidentally, must be bought and is not given away — is too starchy for her epicurian tastes. There are individuals in U.S. society, starlets, models and ace girl reporters, for whom food is the most significant fact in their lives: it is significant by its absense. To such a palate, or anti-palate, the Cuba ration card is filled with forbidden unprocessed goodies. But those who don't eat and drink with pincers and an eye-dropper will find it almost impossible to subsist on such a meager diet, the provisions of which are obtained only with herculean exertions, though even these are often not enough because the promised foodstuffs are unavailable. Cubans who have no access to dollars and cannot supplement their diet by buying on the black market or in the even more usurous government stores must make do with "monthly" provisions which are scarcely enough for one week.

Snow is keeping a blog diary devoted to her month-long "ordeal." The actual ordeal of Cubans who have subsisted on a government-imposed diet for 45 years has never been reported by The Times perhaps because of the misconception that all Cubans eat alike which is supposed to somehow make-up for the fact that they eat offal.

Before the 1959 Revolution, Cubans were the largest consumers of rice on the continent (and, indeed, outside of Asia) and the third-largest consumers of beef in the Western Hemisphere after the "cattle republics" of Argentina and Uruguay. In 1958, there were as many head of cattle in Cuba as there were people — 6 milion. The population of Cuba has doubled since then, but the number of cattle has fallen to 1 million, which is the reason that beef is not legally sold or consumed on the island anymore and milk is provided only to children under the age of 7 (those over that age obviously don't need it). Cubans, who before Castro imported only the finest grade Chinese rice, now must make do with the lowest grade Vietnamese kind, filled with little pebbles and vermint, which in Vietnam is fed to pigs.

In short, before the Revolution, Cubans consumed 2682 calories per person per day. Based on the items provided in the ration card, daily caloric consumption is now under 800 calories. This has a word — starvation, and starvation should be the subject of Anita Snow's story. Instead, the focus of her story is her own discomfiture at having to conform voluntarily to a diet which she considers sufficient if uninspired. Did I say "sufficient?" No, not sufficient, more than sufficient since she confesses in her blog diary that she was "terrified" by the superabundance of carbohydrates provided on the ration card, so much so in fact that she "gave away most of [her] four pounds of potatoes early on," and, we may add, with no regrets. She even has the gall to compare her case to that of the 2004 documentary Super Size Me whose protagonist ate nothing but McDonald's fare for 30 days. That guy consumed more beef in one month than the average Cuban born after the Revolution has consumed in a lifetime. Ms. Snow, if she is faithful to her alternatively-titled diet, will eat no beef at all in that month and a day's worth of chicken or pork. This deprivation of proteins and "surfeit" of carbohydrates she actually compares to that guy's protein cum carbohydrate bacchanalia at McDonald's.

Ms. Snow, unlike most of humanity, doesn't care for either carbohydrates or proteins. What she is "hungry for constantly is green things" like spinach and lettuce. But she is on a "tight plan" and can't afford her fill of chlorophyll and must make do with sweet potatoes, which she informs us that a friend of hers says "better off Cubans commonly give to their dogs!" (note the exclamation mark). Well, that must be the reason there are no boniatos in Cuba, and why a friend of mine, who recently travelled to Cuba, informed me that she was served a "sweet potato" by her niece which turned out to be a common potato doused in almibar (sugar syrup).

In the middle of her musings about her "predicament" trying to eat from such a horn of plenty as she considers Cuba's ration card to be, she lets slip, or strategically places, quite inconspicuously, what should have been the opening line of her commentary: "During my first week of eating on a food program similar to Cuba's universal ration, plus an average salary for extras..." Well, so she is in fact not eating in concert with Cubans: she is on a plan similar but not identical to the ration plan. So it's a case of apples and oranges (neither of which are available to Cubans). What are the differences between her plan and the plan forced on Cubans by the State? She does not say.

She does admit that in addition to her similar plan she also has at her disposal a Cuban's average weekly salary to spend just on food. Except that Cubans cannot spend their $4.20 average weekly pay on just food, but must also pay rent to Fidel, utilities and, yes, even taxes. She also has her car at her disposal to take her wherever food may suddenly appear in Havana or just as suddenly disappear. But, in solidarity with the Cuban people, she has spurned her car and is following a transportation plan similar to that of Cubans; she takes "taxis that cost about 10 pesos each way to and from the market." Oh yeah, ordinary Cubans do their shopping in taxis.

Ms. Snow is especially enamored of Cuban fruits, which she must think were bioengineered by the Revolution. She raves: "I've lived in Latin America for nearly 15 years, and in all my travels I've never seen some of the exotic fruits I've found in this Caribbean island." Again, please take note of the "some" which is the operative word in the sentence and serves the same purpose here as "similar." She claims that some fruits she has seen in Cuba she has never seen elsewhere in Latin America. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly plausible. By the same token there are hundreds of fruits that grow in South America that are not cultivated in Cuba. One fact does not exclude the other and both are meaningless. And what, pray, does the fruits that she sees have to do with the fruits available to ordinary Cubans? She means to imply, of course, that Cubans have more fruits at their disposal than do other Latin Americans, which is a palpable lie. This is not reporting but disinformation. In Cuba, such a simple thing as an orange is available only through a medical prescription for vitamin deficiency.

Ms. Snow is also a connoisseur, indeed a fetishist, for beans and legumes, and the miraculous Farmer's Market on the outskirts of Havana that she reaches by car or taxi offers her a wondrous variety, though she does lament that she cannot obtain the ham hock required for a recipe she found on the internet. So our little meal planner uses the internet to find recipes when slumming on a diet similar to that of Cubans? Cubans, of course, don't have that luxury because Castro prohibits them from access to the internet lest they learn how the rest of the world lives (or eats). Snow takes Cubans to task for "hating" the dried yellow pea — she means split pea — which are the only ones provided on the ration card. She "discovers" with "a little research" that dried yellow peas "are a favorite in Scandanavia!" (again, the exclamation mark). So now she is implying that Cubans eat better than do Scandinavians because Cubans spurn the precious hockless split pea soup that Scandinavians love. Yes, Cubans do hate yellow split pea having been forced-fed it for 45 years; but they don't spurn it because they can't afford to. They must eat the damn split pea soup even if they hate it because they have nothing else to eat.

But Ms. Snow feels no sympathy for the hapless Cubans. In fact, she considers herself "disadvantaged" compared to them: "The reality is that no matter what salary or spending limit I set (that's another choice she has that Cubans don't), it will not take into account the myriad ways people obtain food here, so when it comes to this experiment of eating as Cubans do, I am at an extreme disadvantage." If she were a beautician, for example, "she might get farm-made cheese from a visitor from the countryside in exchange for a haircut." Really? Farm-made cheese for a few snips from a rusty scissors? Here's an idea: Why doesn't Ms. Snow set up as a beautician and see how many wheels of cheese customers give her; or, better yet, ask her relatives in the States to send her cash remittances, which she says 50 percent of Cubans receive. She doesn't explain, however, why Cubans on the island still depend on the largesse of their Miami relatives to eat 48 years after the Cuban Revolution supposedly freed the island from want.

Ms. Snow reports without questioning it the regime's figure that Cubans consume 3356 calories per person per day [A State Department Report from 1998 notes that "in calorie consumption, Cuba has fallen from third among Latin American countries at 2,730 calories a day to last in 1995 at 2,291 calories a day]. No calculation however slanted will ever yield a figure of 3356, which must be the aggregate of those "myriad [10 thousand] miraculous ways" in which Cubans obtain food which are a mystery to the disadvantaged New York Times reporter.

A Cuban economist pointed out in the 1960s, when the ration card was actually more ample than it is today, that the weekly rations which Spanish colonial law mandated be distributed to Cuban slaves last century far exceeded the Castro regime's rations for its slaves. 19th-century Cuban slaves were alloted 12 lbs of pork or beef jerk (tasajo) a week per individual and a limitless quantity of viands, for example. If their masters cheated them of their lawful rations they actually had the right to sue them before the local magistrate and demand manumission (release from slavery) in compensation. Let's see a Cuban try to do that today.

Ms. Snow says that her Cuban friends — no doubt all government officials laughing at her gullibility — are "taking bets on whether [she'll] make it till July." Don't worry, she'll make it, especially after admitting that she supplements her meals at their well-appointed tables.


Charlie Bravo said...

Great article, Manuel, specially on the day I wrote about blackmarket in Cuba....

Vana said...

Yes Manuel great post, let me tell you a story about my youngest sister, and this was set in the sixties, my mom claims that for a month mostly they only had split pea soup, she would take my sister for vitamin shots as she was deficient,( yes you could still get those in the sixties) once a week,which my sister hated, and cried every time about taking them, by the way the shots were kept in the refrigerator at home. Split pea soup for lunch and dinner, one day my mom put a plate of it in front of my sister, my sister said I'm not eating this crap any more, my mom told her eat it! or I'll take you to have your shot, at which point my sister got up from the table, went to the refrigerator took out one shot, and walked around the block, to the casa de socorro (remember the casas de socorro?) and proceeded to take her shot, came home and told my mom, there I've had my shot, but I'm not eating that crap anymore, if it wasn't so poignant you could almost find humor in this story, and Anita Snow claims to eat like Cubans for one month, please give me a break!

Fantomas said...
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Anonymous said...

Great Article,Manuel

Anita Snow what a Jackass!! The Babalu's wrath continues Val delete me from his Blogroll..Halleluja! Halleluja!. Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus..Yeah. It's his blog. And my blog is my blog, I don't need morons on my blog link hence Val Prietaculo. I call it like I see it...I march to the beat of my own drum, Not Val's? HE IS THE MOST VILE, WORTHLESS, SELF-ABSORBED PIECE OF FUCKING HUMAN GARBAGE ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

¡ya no más!:

I am going to write a post on Val Prieto's persecution of you which is a perfect illustration of Val & Company's intolerance of dissent and of the real goals of BUCL, which are to silence it.

A time of reflection for you, fantomas. How far will you go to conform?

Anonymous said...


Go for it! My friend your blog "ROCKS" "Review of Cuban-American Blogs" Awesome blog and Articles..Manuel, you do a great job.

Fantomas said...
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Vana said...

Woo hoo hoo! can't wait for that review Manuel, am eagerly waiting for it.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Thank-you for answering my question: "How far will you go to conform?" Answer: to the very outskirts of sanity.

So now it is BUCL that inspired the European Union to oppose the machinations of Spain's Socialist government via-a-vis Cuba; and when Zapatero is defeated at the polls, as he surely will be, you will claim responsibility for that as well.

Val Prieto said...

Ya no mas,

Your ad hominem attack on me tells us much more about your character than it does about mine, and, it is most probably the reason why your blog was removed from my blogroll.

As for Tellechea's upcoming post about me, what can I say. Im sure it will be pure genius and will be chock full of descriptors like "cocksucker" and such which he has used ubiquitously to describe me and others throughout his tenure as a "blogger."

What disappoints me the most with all of this is that we probably agree on more things than we disagree with and some of us cant see beyond those disagreements and, moreover, opt to air our differences in public, with a complete and total lack of respect towards the other.

So you all can continue to whine and bitch and call me and our contributors names till the cows come home. It only proves your worth and depth of character.

Of course, should any of you suddenly attain some maturity and with that grow some balls and be willing to discuss our differences privately or in person, I'd be more than happy to comply. Till then, please continue with your irrelevance and sepnd all your time bitching and moaning about waht is posted at Babalu while ignoring the important issues that could really use your attention.

Fantomas said...
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Fantomas said...
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Manuel A.Tellechea said...


First, allow me to commend you on the remarkable forbearance you have shown since you last posted here nearly 2 months ago. In your position I would not have been able to let well enough alone. Of course, whether you responded or not was of no consequence to me. I should have thought, however, that it would have been of consequence to you. Here you would have enjoyed the right that you did not accord me at Babalú: the right to dissent. Just as others here speak what they perceive is the truth about you, so too would you have been perfectly free to have your say about them (and me) here.

For the second time, I never called you a "cocksucker," but I did say that you had been a protagonist in the biggest cocksucking in Cuban-American blog history. A fine distinction to be sure but one nonetheless. What it means is that you are not congenitally a cocksucker, but did on this one occasion engage in a monumental cocksucking vis-a-vis the Estefans. I don't think anyone can or does deny that; you yourself know it is true and are ashamed of it, as well you might be.

It is not a question of "probably;" we do in fact substantially agree on most matters concerning Cuba. The difference between us is a matter of approach. I happen to believe in free expression; you do not. By censoring and booting readers because they happen to disagree with your senseless ultimatums you are destroying the very work that means so much to you.

You know perfectly well that no one has praised you and Henry more than me in the past when your conduct merited it. I will be glad to dedicate the longest post in this blog's history to transcribing that praise if only to show that I, at least, do not have a personal animus towards you. It is your methods that I disapprove of. Nothing more.

I have been waiting, too, for you to attain some maturity, which in your case means recognizing that you, not me, are to blame for this situation. As the instigator it lies with you to take the first step towards dialogue and I am glad that you have done so (badly, but nonetheless). You have my e-mail address, or Ziva can give it to you. Write me. What you say shall remain private.

As for this blog — of which you are the undisputed godfather — it is no longer focused on you as it once was. In fact, I have written much, much more about Henry than I have about you. I hope you don't feel neglected.

The "important issues" are not ignored here. I try to keep a balance between posts such as this one, dedicated exclusively to Cuba, and the brief and mostly humorous posts which I dedicate to Babalú.

I may be irrelevant to others, Val, but I am not irrelevant to you. You still curse the day that you booted me from Babalú and wish with all your heart you could take it back. Let that be a useful lesson to you in future: do not attack without reason because you may find yourself being attacked with reason,

Regards to everyone at Babalú and my fervid thanks for making this your second home (oh, the hours, the hours you all spend here reading my "irrelevancies!").

Alex said...

Not without trepidation Manuel -for I know you'll repeat these words endlessly- I must commend you on a well-written and humorous post. Make this the norm and not the exemption.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I have praised you on occasion, too, Alex, and since I left Stuck on the Palmetto have actually found myself enjoying and agreeing with your latest installments of the "Vamos a Cuba" series. Some people, apparently, need distance to appreciate each other, or, at least, each other's work.

Val Prieto said...


The issue, as I see it, is that you have such a high regard for yourself and your opinion that you lack the common courtesy of abiding by the requests of your hosts. In this case, Babalu, specifcally in a post and comment thread where I had asked, repeatedly, that folks refrain from ad hominem attacks on certain people and focus their commentary on the specific issue at hand. In layman's terms, had you been at my home for a gathering, and had I asked you to please refrain from certain behavior, you had three choices: you can respect the hosts wishes and remain - dealing with whatever problem you had with him or her in private, or you could choose to leave the party under your own auspices because you felt you were being singled out, or you could continue that behavior and get thrown out of my house. You opted for door number three - and, even though I felt at the time that - due to the timing of your comment - I may have jumped the gun, I emailed you and I apologized to you immediately. yet you took it as the excuse for an affront against me and the blog. In other words, perdistes la tabla y te insultaste because apparently no one has ever put Manuel Tellechea in his proper place.

Surely, if I were at your home and you asked me not to piss on your geraniums and I went and found relief on said geraniums despite your appeals, You would have aksed me to leave, no?

Its all about respect. I gave you a forum to voice your opinions on a daily basis and never limited your expression of same nor edited your commentary nor deleted them. I asked you one time to please tone it down and you didnt. That tells me that you really could care less about the place you were visiting and the efforts your host went through to afford you said place in the first place.

So that's where we stand. Contrary to your delusional belief, I lose absolutely no sleep whatsoever over this blog or your opinions. I know I have been gracious towards you and reciprocated whatever respect you have shown me. If you chose to continue berating me and attacking my character, so be it. The archives and the associated commentary of my blog and the archives of this blog pretty much speak for themselves.

Some people are petty and some are not. Some people are well manered and some are not. Some people understand that some personal differences need be put aside for a common goal and some do not.

No matter how much you attack my character and my integrity, they will remain in tact, as you display a lack of both every time you attack me with such disingenuos zeal.

So please, continue reviewing our Cuban-American blogs, as your readers with a penchant for reading between the lines and understanding the nature of both you and I, will come to their own conclusions.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


If you had sent me an e-mail apologizing for booting me from Babalú this matter would not have advanced further. But I did not receive such an e-mail and must question whether such an e-mail was ever sent. I am glad to hear you admit, however, that you felt an apology was in order.

No ad hominem attacks were made on Gloria or Emilio Estefan at Babalú by any commenter; certainly not by me. However you were petrified that such a comment might be made and threatened to boot anyone who did. A man who apologizes publicly, as you did, for having doubts yourself about the Estefans' motives — doubts that you didn't publicly express — cannot be expected to evaluate fairly the opinions of others. Your ultimatum on criticism of the Estefans and attendent threat to expel those who disobeyed would have been boorish behavior whether you were entertaining your commenters in your house or on your blog. Are you in habit of limiting the expression of visitors to your home? Do you hand them a card upon entering your door which lists the subjects that they are not allowed to discuss while under your roof? Well, frankly, I should not be surprised if you did.

As I recall I was booted from Babalú for agreeing with Vic that not all communists are pro-Castro and not all Castroites are communist. The statement on its face is irrefutable and the name of the Estefans was never mentioned.

The real reason that you booted me was that you resented my presence on your blog for reasons unrelated to the Estefans. These reasons are quite obvious to everyone when you refer to me as "His Superiorness," "His Omnipotence" and "Genius."

You are quite right when you say that I will allow no one to insult me with impunity. This is known as dignity. "Putting me in my proper place," a phrase which clearly shows whom the monomaniac here is, is something which lies much beyond your ken in every way. On the other hand unmanning you is child's work for me. I do it so well that all your friends and enemies gather here just to witness the spectacle. No one in his right man would believe that you are not bothered by it when you give every indication that you are and profoundly so. And, by the way, I have never attacked your integrity or character: I have only attacked your intelligence or lack thereof.

Some people are stupid and some are not. It really boils down to that.

Vana said...

Now Val can see that this blog is an open forum where we all can comment, and everyone is welcomed, including him, seems to me Manuel that you telling the truth about Babalu, has Val in an uproar because there is nothing he can do about this blog, he has to grin and bear it, and from the looks of it, he can't take it, he should have NEVER kicked you out of his blog, for he never imagined, you would turn out to be his worst adversary, in my book you only get what you deserve, and he got it.

Anonymous said...

Let's hear it from the Peanut Gallery,fagtamas..oops a TYPO, hahaha.. you bury your nose soooo, deep in val's can detect at least a whiff of his arroz con mango bullshit.It must be exhausting kissing his ass everyday,Fantamas...

Fantomas said...
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Fantomas said...
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Agustin Farinas said...

Kc and and Charlie,
I quote from Babalu's own post here:
"Some people are petty and some are not. Some people are well manered and some are not"

Does the fact that he called you both "douchebags" several times falls under the category of ill mannered or petty?