By Irina Echarry
“On every block, a committee;
In every neighborhood, revolution…”
This is how the refrain goes from the well known theme song of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (better known in Cuba by the initials: CDR). On September 28, they celebrated the 49th year since their founding.
Every teen, upon turning 14, becomes a part of this organization, whose membership -as one can imagine- includes the majority of people in the country. In addition to that quasi obligatory act of admission, the combination of mass campaigns, social pressure and possible negative consequences permit almost no one to make the decision not to accept membership.
For example: To get some a job, it’s necessary to receive the endorsement of one’s block CDR. If the CDR president speaks poorly of someone, it would be better that this person forget ever wanting to work at any job with the State.
What’s most striking is the combined absurdity, stagnation and outdated fashion that is demonstrated in the entire staging of the festivities.
Like a theatrical production revisited on many occasions by the same playwright -without the slightest contribution by the actors- neighborhood blocks get “decked out” to hail their special day.
It doesn’t matter that there are no proper decorations, anything serves: scraps of cloth, string, flags (big or small), or hand-drawn posters with revolutionary phrases and even the likenesses of the nation’s leaders. While it’s true that some places are decorated more simply than others, this is relative to the level of responsibility and belonging that is felt for the plot of living space people are allotted.
It doesn’t matter if there’s some seriously ill person on the block and the building’s members have decided not to take part in the fiesta out of respect for that family’s grief; the buildings on either side or in front have nothing to do with that. Bob Marley or Baby Lores can shout all they want till morning; it’s the official day to blast music at full volume.
It’s the official day to make bonfires in the street and cook community “caldosa” (soup), as if we’re in primitive clans.
It’s the official day of the drunk. They can guzzle openly and make spectacles of themselves without the least feeling of inhibition. We’re all celebrating.
It doesn’t matter in the morning that the streets look like they’re in mourning because the baseball team lost the title to those “damn Yankees.”
It doesn’t matter that only a few days ago one of the commandants of the Revolution died.
It doesn’t matter that people -the same ones who are “celebrating”- are fed up with shortages, and with the hot air that’s building up in our lungs and minds like pressure cookers.
It doesn’t matter that at some moment some of these pots will explode; somebody will take charge of minimizing the consequences.
On television they keep showing the same videotape with the old theme song:
“In every block, a committee” – that’s true.
“In each neighborhood, Revolution” – that’s what we need.
But the celebration comes before everything else. Change, evolution or whatever can all wait.