This week we worked in both the Frutales and Medicinales departments.
In the Frutales department we were working with Osmin. This department was initially misleading as I thought we'd be growing and picking fruit. Instead, the frutales department grows fruit trees and sells them to the public, earning around 5000 - 6000 cuban pesos each month. Mango, fig, avocado, peach, guava and coffee trees are just some of the few that are grown in the department. Osmin is one of the two men that make up the Frutales department; his coworker Jesús is on vacation. Our main job during our time in Frutales was to replant countless avocado tree from small bags containing exhausted hardened soil to larger bag with freshly mixed organic soil (See photos).
During our shorter time in Medicinales we were weren't too useful but learned a lot. The Medicinales department consists of two men as well, Ramón and Roche. Ramón and Roche have been working on the organopónico for years and have become well known by their many customers. The plants grown in the Medicinales department include plants for cooking and seasoning such as spinach, mint, and many varieties of basil, as well as plants knows to help stomach pains, inflammation and diabetes. The best sellers however, are the plants intended for spiritual rituals. Santeria is widely practiced in Cuba, and many practices within the religion require specific herbs and plants.
(Basic Introduction to Santeria: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2048)
Ramón told us that in a day anywhere between 50 and 60 people will visit and leave with plastic bags full of herbs. You can get a lot for your money here; five Cuban pesos buys a regularly sized plastic bag packed full of fresh basil. One thing's for sure, of all the departments we've worked in, Medicinales smells the best by far.
One thing that Frutales and Medicinales share in common is their low labor demands, each requiring only two workers. With so few positions available, one can imagine it's difficult to get a job on the organopónico. Each week Medardo Naranjo, the "subdirector cientifico-técnico" or deputy scientific-technical director, sits down with Katherine and I and answers any questions we have about what we've seen and experienced on the organopónico. This week he explained to us that in order to be hired, a person must first be selected from the list of applicants in Human resources and work for three months before going before the general assembly after which they are either hired or not. While this process seems a little daunting, once hired an employee is part of the cooperative, and is allotted shares based on how long they have worked on the organopónico. The longer you work, the more shares you have, and the more money you earn.
On a completely unrelated note, this week on the bus they played the most entertaining assortment of music. Normally, if music is playing on the bus it's Spanish music but this Wednesday we were serenaded by Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", followed by The Eagles' "Hotel California" and last but not least Elton John's "Can you feel the love tonight?". It was a great start to the day.