A Red Ribbon to Protect Cars

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Photo by Caridad.

In Cuba it’s a tradition to hang a red ribbon in your car to protect the vehicle. It’s said that this disperses negative energy; in other words, it can reduce the effects of the “evil eye” [a curse in Afro-Cuban religion].

This afternoon, when I was coming home from work, a car shot beside me going full speed. Seeing this, I told myself that it would be a miracle if it didn’t crash.

When I turned the corner, there it was. The car had smashed into a telephone pole, and a crowd had formed around it. It appeared that the driver wasn’t seriously injured, but he was walking unsteadily, staggering from one side to the other with his hands on his head.

Among the area residents who congregated there, a range of opinions could be heard about what had happened.

“He knows that he should have stopped before turning,” noted one neighbor.

“We’d better call the police!” advised someone else.

I looked carefully to see if the car had an amulet that was supposed to protect it, but I didn’t find one. I looked for one on the ground but I didn’t find anything there either.

From down the street came Maria, the local gossip who doesn’t miss out on any situation in the neighborhood.

“My God! How did this happen? And the driver…where is he?” she asked, though no one answered. “I’m sure they didn’t have a red ribbon,” she continued.

Someone answered her saying, “Maria, you always want to be in on everything…”

“Me? I only want to help,” she countered in self-defense.

“If you want to help, get the car out from where it’s stuck,” another person suggested.

“Don’t be funny. You know I can’t. But if he had had the red ribbon it wouldn’t be necessary to get anything out of anywhere.”

At that moment the driver was crouched over leaning on a fence in front. But now even more annoyed, he snapped back at Maria saying, “Ma’am, don’t be so superstitious!”

The shock of the impact had jolted him into a more lucid state, but he continued to speak slurred.

Maria observed this and when grasping the situation she began to step backwards saying, “Sure! It couldn’t give the same luck to someone who was driving drunk!”