I had the opportunity to visit Cuba in 2007. I hope that you can benefit from my observations of the island. However, my writing cannot substitute for the actual experience. If you ever get an opportunity to visit Cuba I encourage you to go. Meeting the people, walking the dusty roads, and becoming immersed in the culture, will forever change your perspective.
An Island Canvas
Upon arriving in Cuba, Christopher Columbus wrote in his journal, “This is the most beautiful land ever seen by human eyes.” I agree. It is so easy to appreciate this illogical portrait, painted by desperate hands, splattered and stained with antiquated paints, and framed by the harsh realities of an ideological and political conflict that has endured for over 50 years.
It is so much easier to appreciate when you step inside this painting and discover that the canvas itself is a work of art. That canvas is Cuba. From the beaches at Guadalavaca to the mud-covered roads of Mala Noche and the cane fields surrounding Marcheon – the canvas is magnificent. The land truly lifts the senses.
In Cuba, you can enjoy the sweet smell of guava, papaya, pineapple, mango, and coconut. There is the rustling sound of an island breeze that twists its way through a panorama of blues and greens. From the pale green cane stalks to the brilliant greens of the plantain trees, to the almost iridescent blues of the sky and sea. A sea which in contrast to its cool blue color is comfortably warm.
The warm coastal waters offer up some of the best-tasting dishes you can imagine. Lobster, shrimp, crab, fresh fish, and dried smelts that crunch apart in your mouth like saltine crackers.
Finally, there is the coffee. If you care for coffee they drink it very strong and in very small cups. It hits your stomach with force and all you can do is hold on for the ride.
Beekeeping in Cuba
Cuba enjoys a tropical climate which allows beekeeping activities to occur all year. There are a wide variety of plants that bloom throughout the year. Depending on the particular location dearth may be experienced only in June or August. The major nectar flow occurs in November through December.
Cuban Beekeeping is regulated by the government. All Cuban Beekeepers operate under the government agency called Empresa Apicola Cubana (Cuban Beekeeping Company). This agency is also known simply as Apicuba.
Apicuba provides training, research, and resources, to over 1500 beekeepers on the island. There are no hobby or sideline beekeepers in Cuba. All the beekeepers are full-time employees of the government. Every apiary is located, tracked, and maintained, by the government.
The honey produced by Cuban beekeepers is famous throughout the world. It is considered to be of very high quality. Cuban honey has a deep amber color and a taste similar to clover honey.
Most of the honey produced in Cuba is packaged under the government-owned Apisun label. Honey production goals are set each year for the Apicuba beekeepers. Each hive averages 100 – 150 lbs of honey per year. Overall production is measured in tons with the island’s approximately 20,000 hives producing around 900 tons of honey per year.
Cuban Queen Bees
All Cuban honeybees are bred in accordance with strict standards that include the prohibition on the use of any kind of chemical pesticide. All queen bees are raised in certified queen breeding centers located throughout the island. The centers are certified by the Center for the Study of Apiculture (CIAPI) in Havana. Since there is a prohibition on the use of chemicals for Varroa Mite control, all efforts are made to produce queens with genetic resistance to Varroa Mites. The queens produced by the government are sold to beekeepers for about $3 each.
CIAPI acts to protect the legacy of Cuban Bees. The importation of bees is strictly prohibited. Also, there are quarantine zones set up around ports to prevent the possibility of foreign bees entering the country. This has resulted in a distinctly Cuban Bee that is both gentle and productive. Also, as a result, there are no Africanized Bees in Cuba.
I hope this article gives you a sense of what it is like to visit Cuba. It is worth noting that Cuba is one of the most visited places in the world. There are so many facets to the people and culture of the island. Beekeeping is a flourishing industry on the island but is strictly controlled by the government.