HAVANA TIMES — This past Sunday afternoon, by mere chance I was cutting through the busiest and most centrally located park in Havana: “Parque de la Fraternidad” (Fraternity Park). It was drizzling only slightly, the temperature was nice and I was walking along in pretty good spirits, eager for human contact.
Suddenly, there in my path was something highly unpleasant: a woman and a man were arguing violently, when he — much stronger and heavier — reared back and gave her a tremendous slap.
They each must have been about 35, and with them was a little girl who was crying desperately and another strong man, steadfast, looking on impassively.
I walked to one side of “all that” as if it had nothing to do with me. A part of me was saying “don’t get involved,” justifying myself by the fact that the woman wasn’t asking for help or trying to get away; in fact, she was responding to the attack by fighting back tooth and nail.
But then this bear of a man, appearing affronted for her having dared to raise her hand against him, floored her with a hook to the head.
Seeing her like that, lying in a puddle, I could no longer contain myself. Humbly, I approached and asked the “gentleman” if he could please take it easy and leave her alone.
I took her by arm, decided to take her to safety. The little girl started begging for my help, but the mother was refusing to step out of the ring, and that’s when what happened occurred.
Both of them — healthy, strong, well-fed and tall — turned toward me with angry grimaces. “What the hell are you doing sticking your ass in this, you little faggot?!” one said.
With the patience of a priest, I tried to calm them – not compete with them. I explained to them that it was for the good of the child, but they didn’t stop. They looked like they wanted to rip out my bones and were moving quickly in an unequivocal direction: towards me.
With the agility enabled by my 130 pounds, I turned and ran wildly, disgracefully, but once out of danger I doubled back. Then, with all the power of my nicotine-free lungs, I began to howl like a siren: “You dumb-ass abuser!”…in addition to other even more vulgar insults that decency prevents me from repeating here.
I succeeding in catching people’s attention, but no one really batted an eye there in Fraternity Park. Instead, they just stopped to observe the scene from afar, as if they were Romans at a circus.
After about 15 minutes of the scandalous public incident, in the park with more police officers per square meter than in all of Havana, not a shadow of one had appeared.
This made me figure that the next time I yearn for the rapid presence of one of them, I’m going to choose better words to scream. I’m going to include the word “freedom” – which stings much worse than a mastodon bruising a female.
On a daily basis I see scenes of generosity in this city among a people who are proverbially supportive of one another, but I feel that disregard for each other is on the rise.
Gender-based violence, particularly among couples, is a fairly everyday thing now, on its way to becoming something “normal.” Hopefully this post will help prevent that.