Cuba Loses Horsepower: Mule Shortage Spooks Commies
By Erik Maza in Flotsam, La Habana
Mon., Mar. 1 2010 @ 9:00AM
Last week, Cuba's daily newspaper breathlessly announced that the
country faced a mule deficit.
The dip in the mule community — their words — has triggered a
countrywide census of the animals that begins today. The tally by Cuba's
"census burro" will ascertain the "veracity" of the shortage, Granma
wrote. The "National Mule Census" starts today and will last ten days.
The directive from above is clear: even if census takers have to forge a
river, or climb a mountain, every long-eared, braying equine must be
Already, Marco Rubio was overheard saying only fully naturalized mules
should be included.
The paper reports the country may be some 8,000 burros in the red. The
pack animals are prized there for their "versatility" in transporting
not only coffee, but also cocoa and agricultural staples to its most
But the Cuban government is a glass-half-full kind of cartel. This isn't
a shortage, they say, it's "a decline."And, "Our goal is to over the
long run accelerate mule production with the direct collaboration of the
private sector and the state." Emphasis on "long."
Upon hearing the news of the census, those kidders at the Associated
Press and the Los Angeles Times mocked the Cuban government for their
antediluvian dilemma. But actually guys, we count our mules too. And
horses, and llamas and pigs. Every five years the Department of
Agriculture conducts its own census that itemizes the number of farm
animals in the country by state, by numbers sold and killed. Sometimes,
as with hogs and pigs, there are even quarterly reports. The next
comprehensive census is in 2012.
As for our mules, turns out Florida had 6,200 mules in 2007, and the
country nearly 300,000. So much for bragging rights. According to
Granma, Cuba's second largest province, not even a tenth of the size of
Florida, owned 3,700 mules last year.
What causes a shortage anyway? Too many pony boys? If horse slaughtering
is as big an epidemic in Cuba as it is here, those mares better scram.
For those, and other related questions, we turned to Ben Tennison,
editor in chief of Western Mule magazine — phone number: 417-859-MULE.
"It's always been since the settlement of the West that there was a
deficit of mules because the mule couldn't reproduce himself," he said.
"He's shooting blanks." He explains: mules are sterile; they're actually
bred from a male donkey and a female horse. If the mares are used to
breed more horses than mules, then you'll inevitably get a shortage. And
y'all thought only Wikipedia could dispense random trivia.
Anyway, for as long as he's been in the mule business, Tennison said
even in the United States there's always been more demand than supply
for the animals. "They're a highly sought-after commodity because of
their health and power," he added. "Back in the 1800s, a mule was worth
more than a horse." That's Cuba for you — still bartering like a 19th
*Sorry, there are no famous mules. Francis the Talking Mule is still as
much of a cult figure as the Egg Lady in "Pink Flamingos."
Cuba Loses Horsepower: Mule Shortage Spooks Commies – Miami News –
Riptide 2.0 (1 March 2010)