My Sundays at Home in Cuba

Irina Pino

Apartment building on Calle 19 de mayo street. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Sundays ought to be like an emergency exit: the possibility of fleeing from the daily chaos that steps on our heels throughout the week and swallows us up without mercy. Quiet time, the pleasure of doing what we like, breaks the doldrums of routine.

That said, some Sundays are often long and boring, and we go around in circles, finding nothing that can shake our lethargy away.

When my brothers and I were children, we would turn on the TV at nine in the morning to watch Silent Comedy, a show hosted by Armando Calderon that made us smile and burst out in laughter with recreations of early films that were narrated with a mocking tone of voice.

The host would improvise his own script on the basis of the images on screen. Starting the day watching Charlot and Buster Keaton – the dead-pan comedian – doing those things that made us laugh so hard and made our breakfast all the more pleasurable, was simply delicious.

On one occasion, the host, enthused by a particular scene, lost control of himself and said: “It’s fucking marvelous, my dear old friend.” People from my generation still evoke that episode with a tinge of mischievous complicity. Because of that blunder, he was suspended for months. We stopped hearing his voice, so his punishment was double: it hurt us as much as it hurt him. His clever humor, dubbed over the silent scenes, was the show’s most attractive aspect.

As a child, I would also help my mother bake desserts and prepare rissoles (hence my aversion to cooking) as a way of lightening the burden of household chores that she shouldered. We would eat rissoles or hamburgers nearly every day of the week. She would get home after five, exhausted and in no mood to enter that small hell that was our kitchen.

As a teenager, I became addicted to a TV program called Tanda de domingo (“Sunday Show”). The show would screen three films from different genres (thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, comedy, dramatic and even musical films). This variety made the show interesting. I recall such titles as The Time Machine, Somewhere in Time, A Star is Born (the one with Barbara Streissand), The Umbrellas of Cherburgo, Fame, The Three Days of the Condor, Brubaker, The Way We Were, and many others that entertained myself in the afternoon in the company of my parents and brothers.

We would watch TV right after lunch. We even had the bad habit of watching TV while eating. The showing was later reduced to two films and then only one. They also changed its name. Now, it’s called Arte Siete (“The Seventh Art”), they screen only one movie, after they show an episode of a popular TV series.

I believe the miracle of cinema has taught me to cherish different aspects of existence, something similar to gathering and editing memories. This hasn’t made me value reading any less. That’s another journey full of unpredictable episodes that took me to second-hand bookstores and placed wonderful literary volumes in my hands, with which I would gracefully end my Sundays.

After watching TV, I would spend hours reading. Night would remind me I had to stop, that the next day was Monday, the much-hated Monday when I had to go to school.

My Sundays are fragments, the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have been lost, like families that have been torn apart, people and events that will never return.

Our childhood and teenage years are states of grace that only memories return to us – they are reconstructed and glue together like photos in an album, where painful details are often omitted.

The Sundays of those days do not resemble my Sundays today; they do not have the same flavor. One must learn to treasure those memories. It is only a question of learning to look at things from the perspective of the now and to continue to repeat –every minute of every day – that phrase I was taught by the film Dead Poets Society. To make it real and yell it at the top of our lungs: “Carpe diem!”

One thought on “My Sundays at Home in Cuba

  • Your article brought back memories of my childhood in the UK during the Second World War. The cinema was the only form of entertainment apart from radio as TV although invented by Baird a Scot prior to the war was not available until well after the war arriving in Scotland for example in 1953.
    But at the Cinema the complete show included an ‘A’ film – the main one, and a shorter ‘B’ film -sometimes with Ronald Reagan as one of the stars. In addition there were cartoons or short musical shows – with singers like Frank Sinatra, Hoagy Carmichael, Nat King Cole and musical soloists including Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. We children loved the time at the cinema because it took us away from the day to day reality of war and trying to imagine normality. However we were brought back to war by the newsreels reporting upon the latest battles and later by the reports upon the British finding Belsen Concentration Camp and the Americans Dachau.

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