Dariela Aquique

Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 26 — Since time immemorial, humans have clamored for health, prosperity and good fortune, and at certain times or periods they celebrate, pay homage and express their gratitude to supreme beings.

They have invented myths and characters that have changed only in name, image or legend according to the region or epoch.

Christmas is one of those many celebrations. It is the festivity commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ by the Catholic religion, and — along with Easter and Pentecost — is one of the most important celebrations of Christianity.

The day is celebrated on December 25, Christmas, which means “the coming” or “birth.”

One of the persons most venerated by Christians of the Middle Ages was a legendary character inspired by a Christian bishop of Greek origin, Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century in Anatolia (modern Turkey).

According to Western culture, this figure would bring gifts to children during Christmas. He is known in the Hispanic world by various names: Papa Noel, Father Christmas, Colacho, Jose Andres, Ramon, San Nicholas or “Santa Claus” in his most Americanized version.

What’s most curious is that here in my land the fable has now transgressed its original version of the old man who brings gifts to children. These days, any news, gift or good thing that happens to a person on this date will be met by words like: “This is a Christmas gift or surprise,” or “Santa Claus brought it for me.”

What is catching my attention during this Christmas period is a series of good news and proposals for change in the lives of Cubans. The government is becoming “Papa Noel” (I think they would consider calling it “Santa Claus” to be “ideological diversionism”) and it is bringing gifts to the people.

It was announced on Christmas Eve that the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba — in compliance with established policy and following numerous requests by family members and various religious institutions — was going to pardon more than 2,900 prisoners throughout the country in a humanitarian and sovereign gesture.

The government also communicated a tax reduction for low-income self-employed workers.

With this also came word of a new government loan program for the population administered through the various branches of the Popular Savings Bank.

And on top of all that, though it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, people are jumping for joy over the news on the street that we’ll soon see the disappearance of the absurd “letters of invitation” and “exit permits” that are required of any national to leave the country.

All of this is creating a festive mood among people.

But Papa Noel, or Santa Claus, disappears after Christmas and people come out of their fantasy worlds to go back to their everyday lives. The essence doesn’t change; the root of the problem remains the same.

This is already starting to be seen. Together with the announcements that seemed like a Christmas present brought to us by Santa, there was another one stating:

“In the address by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, president of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the Eighth Regular Session of the National Assembly of Popular Power, on December 23, 2011, in this 53rd year of the revolution, he said, ‘Let us not neglect, not for an instant, the unity of the majority of Cubans around the party and the revolution’.”


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

One thought on “Cuba Christmas Gifts

  • What an interesting read, Dariela, thanks so much for posting. The last paragraph was a particularly poignant reminder that after the fun of giving gift ideas to friends and family during festive times, the problems in our lives will still be there even after such an enjoyable time.

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