How I Spent International Workers Day

Isbel Diaz Torres

A Profound May Day

This May Day I stayed at home, where the silence in my San Agustin neighborhood helped me to reflect.

According to my mom, May Day celebrations in past decades were periods of bustling activity.  Starting early in the morning one could hear neighbors yelling and calling each other to ensure their spots in the long line at the designated bus departure points.  Before sunrise, large congregations of people would assemble everywhere in San Agustin as everyone prepared to head out for Revolution Square.

As for me, I recall with a certain degree of nostalgia how — days before the parade — people on the block would meet to start planning our participation.  There they would decide on the different banners, signs, etc. and colors that we would bring with us.  I clearly remember the time all of us worked together to build these big metal hoops on which we tied multicolored cloth ribbons.  It was a festive atmosphere that children like me thoroughly enjoyed.

That hasn’t happened for years.  My mother even asked me if this year there was or wasn’t going to be a parade, because this time the silence of the neighborhood was crushing.  Only a few people from out here go down to the Square.  However, those who have “a reputation to watch” are careful not to leave their house until after the march is over – just like those people who own private cafeterias.

The calculations and double standards are staggering.  These reach their highest expression in areas around the Square where people — once seen by their bosses — stealthily slip away through the side streets.

A bulletin board at our building.

It goes without saying that the historical origins of this march are conveniently silenced in our media.  The popular demands by Chicago workers in 1886 and their strong criticism of the government and capitalism are not pointed out.

Trying to change that situation, a group of my friends in the Critical Observatory was moved to participate in the march last year with our own slogans.  This year, though staying at home, I felt we should still do something.

That’s why I hung up a sign in each stairwell of my building with quotes from some of the Chicago heroes.  One of them, Albert Parsons, had said: “What does my crime consist of? – in my having worked in favor of the establishment of a social system where it would be impossible for some people to accumulate piles of wealth while others fall into disgrace, misery and dependence on others?”  I think we should continue to work in support of that social system.

The messages of the signs were decided on by several of the members of the Critical Observatory Network.  That’s why beautiful verses by the Argentinean composer and poet Atahualpa Yupanqui were added, as were others by the great Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, who spoke of love, work, friendship and freedom.

The slogans included ones like: “Long live those who struggle!  Community, Worker and Popular Organization!  Long Live May Day!  Glory to the martyrs of Chicago!

Several of us also distributed these May Day flyers.

After having posted the message for the residents of the 30-unit building where I live, I went back into my apartment.  I saw parts of the parade on television and suffered through the two-faced harangues of the Cuban speakers.

Nevertheless, some of this torture proved good for something.  Barely perceptible in the masses of people, I could make out the words on a small poster that read: “Socialism, Popular Administration and Workers’ Control.”


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

One thought on “How I Spent International Workers Day

  • Although we had a rather modest May Day celebration on the town common here in Brattleboro, Vermont, it was a pleasant early Spring afternoon. For three hours we listened to several musical groups and speakers–and had a May Pole! Perhaps a hundred people attended (in a town of 12,000+/-). We always have a group representing the Haymarket Martyrs, with each member giving a little spiel concerning the individual martyr he represents. One hopeful sign: instead of us old folks doing this (and some of us are getting rather tottery!), this year a group of high school students volunteered to represent the martyrs.
    Thanks to Cubavision, I was able to see the festivities at the Plaza de La Revolucion this past Sunday. I saw Fidel give one of his final public speeches there on May Day of 2006, during a visit to Cuba.

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