How Comandante Fidel Castro became the “King of Ice Cream”

After the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the United States imposed the first trade sanctions against Liberty Island. However, this did not apply to food imports to Cuba. However, but how did Comandante Fidel Castro become the “King of Ice Cream”.

In 1961, the American authorities attempted to undermine the communist regime and destabilize the region by deploying a sabotage formation, Brigade 2506, in the Bay of Pigs. This US plan failed, and already in the next 1962, America began a blockade of the island, declaring an almost complete trade embargo.

Food sanctions

From the first days of the introduction of international sanctions, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his ministers had to solve several difficult issues, the main one of which was food. Liberty Island did not have sufficient resources to meet its needs for some products. For example, dairy. Due to its geographic location, Cuba is located in the tropical zone.

The hot and humid climate of these latitudes does not in any way imply the successful production of milk and dairy products. Even earlier, all attempts by farmers and industrialists to change the situation suffered an outright fiasco.

Due to the tropical climate, the European breeds of cows that were brought to the island did not live for a long time, and the milk yield from these animals was an order of magnitude less than in their natural habitat – in the Old World.

The only representatives of dairy cattle that more or less adapted to local conditions were Indian zebu cows. However, these animals can hardly be called dairy due to the very low milk yield, even with a stretch.

But it was the question of providing Cuba with dairy products that, perhaps, worried Fidel Castro most of all. After all, as strange as it may sound, the Cuban People’s Revolution leader was, most likely, one of the world’s biggest ice cream fans.

Castro is a fan of ice cream

Anyone who has ever personally met Castro noted that the Cuban leader has a huge passion for cold milk dessert. Even before the victory of the revolution, when Fidel and his soldiers in the jungle were hiding from the authorities and engaged in partisan activities, friends secretly brought him ice cream cake from time to time.

Fidel Castro favourite ice cream
Fidel Castro favourite ice cream

Later, when the revolution in Cuba won, and Fidel formed his government, frequent breaks in his meetings “for dessert” became quite commonplace. Fidel’s friend, Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, once recalled how the Cuban leader had eighteen balls of his favorite ice cream after lunch.

Knew about this weakness of the leader of the Cuban revolution and his sworn enemies – the Americans. Among the numerous unsuccessful attempts by the CIA to “remove” Castro, some of them were plans to poison the favorite ice cream of the “island communist dictator”.

Canadian cows bypassing the embargo

Under the conditions of the most severe food embargo and the impossibility of importing milk and dairy products, Cuba would have to abandon ice cream production forever. However, Fidel Castro did not even want to hear anything like this. By connecting “secret channels” (most likely, the USSR), the Cubans were able to purchase several hundred cows of one of the dairy breeds on the planet – the Holstein Friesian cattle. The animals were purchased from Canada.

The Cuban climatic conditions were absolutely inadequate for these cows. However, local and invited Soviet livestock breeders got down to business. After some time, by crossing various breeds of cattle, the Cubans managed to achieve quite stable dairy production. However, the failures were still palpable.

Most of the Canadian cows died in their first year in Cuba. Some breeding works led to infertility of animals and high mortality of offspring due to genetic mutations of some “cow” diseases. However, all this was nothing compared to the main success of Cuban breeders.

In 1982, the Cuban “cow”, nicknamed Ubre Blanca (White Udder), managed to produce a record 241 pounds (110 liters) of milk in one day. In the same year, for the entire lactation period (305 days), the cow produced 55,090 pounds (approximately 24,269 liters) of milk, thereby getting into the Guinness Book of Records.

But this was not the main achievement of Cuba, although the Ubre Blanca record lasted more than 10 years. In the correspondence “competition” the Cuban cow beat the American record holder named Arlene. For Fidel Castro, this was a real victory over the “accursed imperialists”.

However, all this happened later. And in the mid-1960s, Cuba could finally declare that it received its own commercial milk, which fully meets the needs of the domestic market for this product. Then Castro had another very cunning plan – the opening of the world’s largest ice cream parlor in the capital of Cuba, Havana.

Legendary ice cream parlor “Coppelia”

The project was more than ambitious. However, Fidel Castro knew perfectly well who to entrust him. The Cuban leader appointed Celia Sanchez, his comrade and comrade-in-arms in the revolution, as the project manager. Camarada Sanchez was not chosen by chance – she had previously led a successful project to revive Cuba’s tobacco industry after foreign companies left the island.

And now Celia had to build a huge establishment in the Cuban capital in an extremely short time – in just 6 months – that could simultaneously serve up to a thousand lovers of cold dairy desserts. Until the very end, the project was so ambitious that even its architect, Mario Girona, considered success as unlikely.

And yet, in 1966, on June 4, the grand opening of the world’s largest ice cream parlor took place on Vedado in Havana. Celia Sanchez received the exclusive right to name this establishment. The woman named it Coppelia, after her favorite ballet, the French composer Leo Delibes. To this day, on the sign of the cafe “Coppelia” female legs in ballerina’s pointe shoes flaunt.

Coppelia ice cream
Coppelia Ice cream

Fidel style ice cream

In the early years, Coppelia’s ice cream assortment was indeed a record-breaking one. Visitors were offered a choice of 26 different flavors, each of which could be served in 25 combinations. By the personal order of “Comandante Castro”, the price for one scoop of cold milk dessert was set at 1 peso.

It’s a paradox, but even the Americans who managed to visit the legendary cafe admitted that the ice cream in Coppelia is excellent. Despite being “communist”. Thus, Coppelia has become one of the most popular and even, one might say, iconic establishments in the Cuban capital.

Today, the Coppelia ice cream parlor is the place where young Havana boys will definitely invite their girls on a date at least once, and a real loving son will lead his mother on a day off. Although the assortment of the cafe is not as extensive as it used to be, everyone can order Fidel Castro’s favorite ice cream – Ensalada. For just $ 1.25, you get five scoops of cold dairy dessert in a variety of flavors. Ice cream is one of the most beloved desserts in the world. Who invented it and when – many still argue on this score.

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