HAVANA TIMES – Christmas is a symbolic tradition: baby Jesus was born on December 25th in Christianity. On the 24th, we celebrate Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), families enjoy a delicious meal, plenty of Spanish turron, wine and cider.
This custom disappeared here in Cuba for decades, it stopped being relevant. But today, it has been taken up again by those who can afford it and is a joyful celebration.
I suppose that this is because there is a desire to reestablish old traditions that form part of our cultural heritage, where family ties are like links in an indelible chain.
Everybody wishes each other happiness, love and prosperity, even though everything carries on like it always does. In some families, several generations have no other choice but to live under the same roof. And in spite of thousands of everyday problems, they don’t stop loving one another.
Nobody is to blame for these shortages. For basic items disappearing from store shelves. For dreadful public transport. And on top of traveling like sardines in a can on buses, unpleasant music violates our ears as if it were some medieval form of torture…, there is still hope for a better future for those who fight for their ideals, who still have faith that change will come.
We don’t celebrate anything at all in my house. Holidays pass us by like they were any other day. My family split into many different parts and most of them now live abroad.
However, I didn’t isolate myself today. I escaped sadness and met with a group of friends. Two of them were friends of mine; the others were visiting Cuba.
The foreigners were eager to get to know the face of my real city, my dear Havana, which has been denigrated and aided by those of us who still love it.
They didn’t know about certain things. The way they were with us revealed a sincere and unbiased admiration. They learned new points of view about a reality that has been imposed on us.
We weren’t the image of the Cuban who cries because their lives were snatched away from them, but the Cuban who holds up an ideal as a flag, living and breathing so art can grow in every aspect. We are artists.
To make art is to strip away every layer of yourself until there’s nothing but you, even if others silence you or try to censor your work.
My foreign friends A and D are two extremely sensitive photographers who are self-taught, expressing themselves openly, activists of their own freedom.
They might look at us and think we are naive, but that’s a good thing. Because in their heart of hearts, they understand there is a way to live that nourishes our souls and keep us going.
This Christmas was both strange and unique. We could all speak our minds and listen to each other, like a purifying echo. Thank you my dear friends for the company.