Revolution in the Park

Irina Echarry

Havana Park archives photo by Caridad

Sitting in a park in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, I was waiting for some friends.   The only shade at eleven o’clock in the morning was falling on a curb where people assemble to wait for the bus or to rest a little before continuing their walking in the sun.

Leaning on a wall beside me, about a yard away, were two people who had the air of foreigners.  When I heard the young woman speak, I realized that she was Mexican.

She was holding a newspaper (I wasn’t able to see which one) when she commented to her friend: “I know there’s a war in Libya, but I don’t know why.  I’ve barely read anything about that.”

I couldn’t hide my surprise.   How is it that at this point someone doesn’t know why they’re fighting in Libya!

I couldn’t hear what the guy said, he spoke in a low voice, but she again said (after reading something in the newspaper), “It seems that it’s over oil.”  Her friend’s subsequent whisper made the Mexican woman react: “No, it couldn’t be that.  People in Libya don’t live so bad.”

The guy straightened up.  Between having sat there so long and the girl’s words, he appeared to be half uncomfortable.   This time I did in fact hear part of his response: “Gaddafi’s been in power a long time.  It’s logical that people would want change.”

At that point the volume of their discussion started to go up.  She didn’t understand why there had to be protests over the same person governing for a long time if the country wasn’t in such bad shape.

She was repeating her line while the guy fidgeted, trying to make himself comfortable on the wall.

But the good part came when he finally responded saying: “To know how a country is, how its people live, you have to experience it.  It’s like here – we’re benefiting from it, but at any moment people could take to the streets demanding change.”

The Mexican woman — as heated as if she had touched the lava of Popocatepetl — continued to defend her notion of people conforming when they have a good life.

But her friend then yelled — exasperated — explaining that it’s first necessary to ask what a “good life” is for Cubans.  “The two of us came here to study and avail ourselves of the advantages of the island, but living here would be different,” he asserted.  “No one has to conform to what others decide, even though it’s supposedly for their own good,” he argued.

A bus stopped, leaving few people to observe the scene.  By this time there wasn’t any shade, yet the voices continued loudly.  My friends finally showed up and we left.  The foreigners remained behind, making their revolution.