May is the month of rain in Cuba, and also the month in which the temperature begins to go up. It’s when the habits of Cubans begin to change; we substitute hot water for cold showers, lukewarm milk for ice-cold juice, and the evenings at the cinema for trips to the beach.
When it begins to get hot, people drink large quantities of water, pop and beer. They put away their coats and we see tank tops and T-shirts begin to re-appear, though the sun scorches the body. To ease this, people wear caps and sunglasses.
In the streets, tempers flare up with ease. Plus, public transportation takes even longer than it should —naturally affected by the more demanding weather (the heat affects the engines, radiators, etc.)— and people have to spend that much more time at bus stops trying to put up with the heat.
The heat plunges me into long stretches of lethargy. I spend a lot time this way, dulled and dormant. It appears like I’m pondering great ideas, but it’s nothing like that; the fact is that I’m feeling alienated, thinking of stupid things or dreaming of big cold glasses of beer, something difficult to get.
This is the time of the year when refreshments sold in the street are most needed. Paradoxically, it’s the time when the most problems and limitations with this exist.
It’s common to walk into a restaurant or diner and get the same short and sour response: “The refreshments are warm.” The sentence in itself sounds absurd.
The salespeople seem to fall in the same lethargy as me. Yet when I hear their words, I come out of my alienation and complain, but to no avail. It’s only a catharsis, because I already know this won’t solve anything.
The economy is deeply depressed with these conditions widespread in all the corners of the island. Crops have been affected, plantings go bad and food is scarce.
A cold shower is a good alternative for anyone who feels worn down by so much heat, but not all of us are privileged in this sense. Recently there’s been a spot on TV calling for energy conservation, since 50 percent of the water pumped in the country is lost to leaks and waterline breaks.
Raising awareness isn’t a bad thing, but can we really expect to solve the problem by people conserving water? It seems to me that the ones truly responsible are like Pontius Pilate; they’re washing their hands of the matter.
There are a large number of communities that don’t even have running water. So the public service spots that appeal to people’s consciences is directed only at those of us who enjoy water service.
The neighborhoods that don’t have running water depend on pipas (water trucks) which sometimes stop in their vicinities. These are the same communities that have the greatest indices of poverty and violence; they are those whose residents have to haul water in buckets and carry it up stairs with tremendous difficulty. For these people, this summer will again be much worse than the worst summer I’ve ever faced.