The Rite of the Suitcase
No matter where I might find myself in the future, one thing I’ll always want to do is spend New Year’s in my Havana.
Today there are many uncertainties among Cubans, but when it comes to celebrating, more than a few islanders break open their “piggybanks” and go all out to buy at least some ham, good black beans and “yucca con mojo” (Yucca with garlic sauce), and of course drink, lots to drink.
For most Western countries, New Year’s is a time of celebrating; one year is concluding and another one beginning. I’m not able to imagine what December 31 is like “out there,” but what moves me the most about the 31st in my Cuba are the popular rites that have been established over the years and that today are now a part of our tradition.
How many people wait until midnight to dump a bucket of water out into the street with the hope that it will “take away the bad things”? Other people, however, prefer to make effigies with “suspicious features” and burn them to “kill the old year.”
But what almost no one forgot this year was the traditional walk around the block with a suitcase full of old clothes to guarantee “fasten” (travel) the upcoming year.
Even in Miramar, a controversial neighborhood that’s the residence of many high government officials, there was no shortage of suitcases this year.
Those people who are most closely associated with “the people” ran around making a tremendous racket, while others went about more discreetly under the pretext of “planning to travel to serve on an internationalist mission in Venezuela.” The most discreet waited patiently for the whole uproar to quiet down and then quietly and orderly filed in as if they were following a “directive from above.”
What’s certain is that almost all of us joined in this year in the now traditional and suggestive “rite of the suitcase.”