Cuba: Hunting for Offerings

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Street in Cojimar, Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — In the distance, I make out the shadow of someone holding a sack over his shoulder, walking slowly between the sea and river. Is it a tired man?

From time to time, he places the load on the ground and crouches. He seems to be looking for something, but what?

The morning brings a fresh and sunny breeze to the banks of Havana’s Cojimar river which makes the place my own, personal paradise: this is my private gulf, a place where boats come to dock. The entire area makes me especially think of my childhood.

I observe and listen to the details: the sound of the waves, the flow of the river, the spot where both hug the earth. A pelican sings and lunges towards the sea in search of its prey. I see it. He soars up with a fish wriggling in its beak, almost inside the bag beneath it.

There is something in the bird that reminds of the man holding the sack. Unlike the bird, the man looks for something but does not find it.

In the distance, right on the shore, Juan, Francisco, Jose, Amalia and the others finish playing the drums and making their religious offering to their African gods. They have used goats, ducks, roosters and some tropical fruits. They finish the ceremony and begin to leave. I follow them with my eyes a while.

Then, the man with the sack darts towards the shore. Unlike his winged counterpart, he does not soar up into the sky to lunge towards the offerings – the goat, duck, rooster and fruits. With dexterity, he places them in the sack, puts the sack over his shoulder and walks towards me. Some animal heads poke out of the sack, I can see them.

“A man’s gotta eat!” he says to me, gesturing with his head as he walks by me.

I don’t know exactly where those dead animals ended up, and I don’t much care to find out.