Ariel Glaria Enriquez
HAVANA TIMES — Life in a tenement or in a building in Havana is similar to that of a more developed small village in the Neolithic Era, where nothing happens during the day, as everyone is out hunting or gathering what they eat later that evening.
During this time, apartments or huts are kept shut, apart from Sundays. However, you shouldn’t be mistaken in thinking that absolutely nothing happens.
As a rule, those dear beings who are grandparents stay at home. While waiting for their grandchildren to come home from school, they are responsible for making the black beans and looking for some provisions, such as the daily bread rolls that enters in the ration booklet, or other rationed goods from the bodega store and on some days in the month, determined by a magic spell, they go out to get mince meat, luncheon meat or the monthly quota of chicken instead of fish.
This routine continues until one day somebody in the clan, almost always the husband of the daughter or the wife of the son, starts thinking that the bodega store owner is giving them less and less sugar or rice and that the butcher is confusing the option of buying chicken with a smaller and smaller handout of fish. As if the scales were magic and were only meant to rob people aged 70 years or over.
Nevertheless, there exists a class of super grandparents who are able to fly across the Florida Strait or the Atlantic Ocean a few times a year, taking the latest hard times news to the part of the family that is far away and returning with all the resources they need in Havana to get out of a tough spot.
This contributes to better feelings towards them, for a short while. Even so, our elders are so benevolent that they don’t even care about the cold in Madrid or a snow storm in Paris, and they are back on another flight quicker than a stone dropping to the floor.
But watch out, there are some who take up arms, and after finding out that outside of Cuba things aren’t so easy for their family members like some people still believe here in Cuba. They then take charge of the house and from the first trip, demand that the blockage in the bathroom is fixed or there’s nothing for anybody.
Outside of this village, is the street where each and every individual tries to scrape whatever they can, with more imagination than chances really, while the light of day allows them to.
That’s why the hunter-gatherer – he or she – begins to plan the next day’s activities from the night beforehand, where alliances with the nearest markets to their workplaces are of greatest priority.
It doesn’t matter if you need to go out of your way by a couple blocks on your way to work to ask Horacio or Silvia to tell you if they put eggs or anything new on sale, and that if they can’t tell you, that they save you some “because I can’t bear to eat another hot dog one more day.”
Then, you have to go back to the village, where the most advisable thing to do, even though you don’t feel like talking and you know that it’s too late to ask by now, is to give the longest explanation possible about how you were able to get a hold of eggs and even the kind of chicken they put out.
After all, you are complying with one of the most fundamental conventions of a village, where everyone is equal, even though whoever has asked has spent the whole day in bed.
Sundays tend to be a little different, everything closes before midday, so if you didn’t go out early to hunt, gather or if you’ve never fished on the Malecon then you have no other option but to wait until Monday to get food.
And don’t get too excited thinking that you can rest, as from 8 AM in the morning, children already begin to annoy you from the corridor and your nearest neighbor, who is bothered by the Mexican music that they listen to in the hut next to him, is booming reggaeton that makes you jump out of bed. And if you wake up in a romantic mood, you better forget tango and boleros too.
Of course, this is just a summary. To learn more about this, we need to wait for the studies that archaeologists, anthropologists and historians will give us in 2000 years from now.