Night Watch in Our Neighborhood

Irina Echarry

Benches recovered for night watch.

In 1960, when the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) was founded, the nascent revolution put into practice one of its commandments: You should keep an eye on your friend just as they should keep an eye on you.

Those were convulsive years.  The enemy could be anywhere at any time.  Acts of sabotage were committed and conspiracies were orchestrated against the radical changes that were put in place for the good of many but at the expense of some.

The idea took effect quickly.  Surveillance played an important role in not erring in the construction of a new society.  It was necessary to keep watch over people and to watch them well.  Therefore nothing was better than forming groups on every neighborhood block so that the authorities could be alerted any activity outside the norm.

I have no doubt that applying this method led to detecting and frustrating actions that were being directed against the population, but the fact is that the 1960s is now 50 years behind us.

Nonetheless, now I found myself —in the middle of 2010— ending a Sunday evening sitting on a bench wasting time, which is what I was doing by performing all-night CDR guard duty from 10:00 p.m. until one in the morning.

So many wasted hours!  There’s a beat cop with the National Revolutionary Police who frequently shuttles up and down the street that I’m supposed to guard; the drivers on break at the bus terminal on the corner sit on the benches in front of a building to chat and talk loud about their feats, without thinking anything about people trying to sleep; and food stands stay open all night – which is to say that my presence on a bench is absolutely unnecessary.

All this is without counting the sensation of stagnation that takes possession of my soul every time they inform me that I have to sign the night watch logbook, as well as make sure that the block president of the committee also signs it to confirm my participation.  In short, I discover that I’m not advancing.  I’m stuck in a dark hole with no way out.

How is it that I end up on this bench every time it’s my turn to pull guard duty?

I’m obligated to carry out this task through emotional blackmail.  They schedule me for night watch with my mother (who never refuses to do it) and I would feel awful if she had to be there for all those hours, sitting on a bench in the dark without anything to keep watch over and without anyone to talk to.

Note:  During the last period of guard duty, two benches of the building where we sit to do our watches were stolen.  No one knows who took them or why; fortunately some older residents in the neighborhood had materials in their houses to replace them.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.