Erasmo Calzadilla

Neptune St. in Centro Habana. Photo: Caridad

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.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

5 thoughts on “It Happened in Fraternity Park

  • Hello from New York City, NY, in the USA! Mr. Calzadilla,l this incident that you describe is an in incident that happens all over the world. The fact that you say that it is becoming “normal” is something that I hope the Cuban people will get together and solve, bec ause it is not healthy for people in any given society to look the other way or stay away. I hope you have some more posiive experiences in public. My best wishes to you!

  • Thank you for posting this story, Erasmo. I sincerely commend you for trying to do something to curtail this violent incident in, ironically, “Brotherhood” Park.

    I have worked in shelters for abused women for many years. Abusive relationships are extremely complex and psychologically nuanced. In many cases, it is as if the woman has been brainwashed by her abuser – quite similar to the “Stockholm Syndrome,” wherein the hostages begin to identify with their captors. Also, abused women sometimes make choices that seem irrational to outsiders but are necessary to their long-term survival within the abusive relationship, if they are not yet ready or able to leave it. Although help isn’t always accepted, it’s still important to offer it.

    Changing societal attitudes is a huge challenge – whether it is regarding woman abuse or violence of any type, gay rights and freedom of expression, or racism – but it is vital to keep trying. You may not have been able to quell this violent altercation but you never know what impact your action may have in the long run. I would bet, for instance, that what you did will stay in the mind and heart of that little girl, who knew what was happening was wrong. You set an example for her, as well as for other witnesses. And, by posting this, your example is now international. Bravo! (I am standing and applauding you.)

  • Reading this reminded me of an incident when I was in New York City, Manhattan. A couple were fighting in a parked car and he was getting physical with her. I approached the car and the man leaped out and decked me. The woman made no attempt to escape. A passerby helped me up and suggested I beat it out of there before I was attacked again.

    “Domestics”, as fights like this are called, are tricky. The couple’s anger is immediately transferred to the newcomer. Relationships, even abusive ones, are viewed by battered women as being better than no relationship, as women’s shelters quickly learn.

    The mechanism is similar on a larger scale – if domestic and neighbourhood violence is increasing, it may be due to anger and frustration at the economic and social situation, transferred to individuals within reach of your fist or your weapon, accounting all too often for ghetto violence in America’s cities where most murders are committed by one ghetto inhabitant against another.

    Ghettoes also produce comradeship. A recent study here in Toronto found that mixed social housing – building projects where state subsidized housed is mixed with unsubsidized housing units – result in a loss of support amongst its members. Those in subsidized units feel they are looked down on by the others and there is no mixing socially.

    Eliminating or reducing the immense economic disparity that exists in the US and Canada would seem to be an obvious solution. Raising the overall economic level in Cuba also seems to be an obvious for addressing rising domestic violence levels. The former requires a change of revolutionary proportions, a revolution that Cuba has already undertaken. It would seem this puts Cuba in a better position to address social unrest.

    The challenge is to retain what has been achieved whilst fighting to raise the quality of life for everyone. I hardly need to tell Cubans this but perhaps they need to be reminded from time to time that all that glitters in the outside world is not gold – many times it’s propaganda and lies from those that care only about gaining power and riches at the expense of the 99%.

  • I second “J’s” kudos, Erasmo! Better to do something, no matter how futile, than to stand by and tolerate that sort of behavior. Years ago my ex-wife and I took in a friend and her two small children who were fleeing a brute. (In one instance, in order to threaten his girlfriend, the brute took one of her small daughters and dangled her over the balcony of their high-rise apartment!) We have her $$, and paid the fare for her and her two children to relocate to a distant city, and made phone arrangements for her to stay in a women’s shelter there. Alas! After a few months she returned to her abuser, who then started calling, and treatening, us! We were still glad we acted, though!

  • Commend you for being more than a fly on the wall. Sometimes we become viewers rather than participants of life. Change takes courage.

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