Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES — This year’s halfway point is drawing near and with that came another May 1st, an annual event where Cubans show their enthusiasm and hard-working spirit by joining the classic parade. A “voluntary” act which reinforces the union between adults, young people and even the historic generation, a time to prove the Revolution’s important value.
At least, that’s what my third grade teacher used to say while I stared out the window. They gave us a two class slot (an hour and a half) just to explain how big this day is.
From what I could imagine, or watch on TV, it always just seemed like some boring ritual under a scorching sun. It didn’t make sense to me and I never asked my mother. I just thought it was an “adult” affair.
During high school, they continued to tell us about it and in seventh grade, without paying attention, however, the event was no longer just a symbolic act (like it had been at primary school), they were now offering us a reward. The school director herself came to our classroom and announced: “Students who go to the parade will receive an award that will be recorded on their file so that they can apply to better degrees at the end of ninth grade.”
I didn’t go, but those who did complained later because they weren’t given what had been promised to them.
At my pre-university course and around the same date, we weren’t told about awards or incentives, we were talked to in a more threatening tone: “Whoever doesn’t attend the May 1st parade will have a permanent mark on their record which will prevent them from choosing the degree they want.”
From being a child up to today, I have never attended the working class’ glorious parade. I only see tired faces on TV, brimming with sweat on their furrowed brow because of the sun and, I imagine, their stress. However, they remain loyal to celebrating this day, but, what is it they are celebrating exactly?
Strangely enough, May Day celebrations were born when various anarchist labor union workers held a demonstration demanding an 8-hour work day. So, I’ll ask again, what are Cubans celebrating?
Most workers linked to the State do work eight hours, but that can’t be considered an achievement as their wages hardly let them grumble out of frustration. Many of their wages aren’t even enough to get them to the end of the month and they depend on family remittances sent from abroad, which is beneath a self-sacrificing worker. Or worse still, they have to turn to illegal businesses or stealing state resources from their own workplaces just to meet their most basic survival needs.
However, they swallow their howls like domesticated dogs and continue to parade every May 1st, collapsing under this island’s merciless sun.
An old friend once told me: “everyone is free to choose their slavery.” Maybe, that’s all this is at the end of the day.