By Francisco Castro
And everything remains in its place
The paving stones and the past
Santiago, an enormous herd that bleats in unison, the voices of people with doe eyes. Watch out, it was not a herd of God’s sheep that rid the world of sin. And peace is apparent.
Confirmation of the double personality within the Cuban national being, an inheritance that dates back to the beginning of relations between what then was Cubanacan, an island lost at the ends of the unknown world, and the conquering Spanish superpower which swept away all traces of native culture in the 17th century.
As one can imagine, it is an inheritance that has been passed on from generation to generation, century after century in the almost thousand square kilometers of the earth’s surface occupied by the Cuban archipelago, a wide, strong and profound root.
This phenomenon is not exclusive to the inhabitants of the Heroic City, a scary fact that should become a priority of scholars and authorities in charge of plotting a safe path towards a happy future.
My concern and apocalyptic tone are a product of my recent journey to Santiago de Cuba. Much has changed with the new first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba for Santiago, for better and for worse.
Cuban pride is demonstrated by hoisting the flag in every public space and workplace; however, I think they are going a little too far by singing the national anthem at the morning meetings carried out once a week in the workplaces before beginning work. The singing begins as a slight murmur that tapers off until no one is singing, even though the anthem hasn’t finished.
Another change has been a nationwide bylaw that prevents people from entering state-owned facilities if they are wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals. In Santiago, this “bylaw” is rigorously enforced.
So, I was able to go to the Dolores Concert Hall -according to musicians, the hall with the best acoustics in the Caribbean- wearing shorts, t-shirt and sandals, but not to the local community computer center or to a friend’s workplace. However, I did manage to make it into a bar…
Anyway, we forget that we live in a topical island; after all Santiago is called “la tierra caliente” (the hot land).
I can’t help but wonder if the places that let me in wearing shorts and sandals, mistook me for a foreigner, something that has happened to me before. Several times people have tried to charge me in CUC and have offered to take me to restaurants, taxis, women and men, and drugs. Yes, drugs, whatever I wanted.
Inconsistency, perhaps? In a recent visit to the Ministry of Culture in Havana, one of the workers told me that whether I would be let in shorts and sandals, my usual attire, depended on the doorperson or receptionist working at the time.
Watch out for the herd. A stampede can cause an enormous disaster.