When a bus I was on today stopped at a traffic light, outside the window was an older man who looked like a bum. He was stretched out on the sidewalk under one of the large porticos that run down Infanta Avenue.
Other passengers around me immediately began commenting on this sight. Everyone agreed that the man was very smart because it appeared he had no concerns. In fact the other riders were envious of his lack of responsibility.
I listened to their comments thinking that they were being made jokingly. However, at a certain moment when I was looking at one of the people speaking, I realized that in their eyes was a glimmer of sincerity. This made me freeze.
I can’t imagine the level of despair necessary to make one want to live the life of a dirty beggar concerned only with having a dry piece of cardboard to spend the night on or their being able to get to a restaurant dumpster ahead of the garbage truck.
What I can imagine is that the man sprawled out under portico never dreamt of leading that way of life, nor do any of those who practice panhandling.
On the other hand, it’s strange that there exist people in Cuba who can look with intrigue at people sleeping in the street and “eating” out of trash cans. Undoubtedly there’s something that’s not working like it should.
And I’m not referring only to Havana, because I’ve had the chance to travel by truck across the country, where the landscape hadn’t changed only due to hurricanes. I could see that the numbers of these people has increased alarmingly.
The issue is acquiring the look of a brewing tragedy in areas around churches. Gathering in those places are the most varied forms of physical human misery. More than pity, these images produce disgust.
It’s not deformities but the fact that they’re displayed in public, grotesquely, and that these people are demanding charity in a country that proclaims itself in all directions to be the greatest defenders of the most basic human rights.