Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — February 14th is upon us which means it’s the day of lovers here in Cuba. Most couples go out hunting for a gift worthy of such a celebration. All of them on their own and in secret. The unbridled desire to show the other person how important they are to them with something beautiful, useful or longed for. A way of showing and recognizing how much the feeling that unites them means.
I have heard people say here and there (I didn’t experience it personally) that when the Revolution triumphed, the government tried to minimize the importance of traditional religious celebrations. However, it wasn’t only Christmas, Easter, Three Kings’ Day or Saint Valentines Day, they even went after Mother and Father’s Day!
Firstly because of Marxism’s atheist crusade in vogue at the time; and secondly for thinking of these days as strictly consumer holidays: as a capitalist strategy to drive mass and superfluous sales. Which had nothing to do with the new society’s “objectivism” which later led to a crisis, and their inability to meet demands on the national market or import non-essentials. Such a concept didn’t fit in with that utopia or with the government’s budding planned and dysfunctional economy.
Nevertheless, our people continued to be “Western” and their “Christian” traditions continue, regardless of whether they are believers or not. Saint Valentine’s Day never ceased to be an important day for lovers, although it did lose the name of “saint” for a long time (very few people know this is the real name of the holiday and official media has only started using it again recently).
This is where their attempt to not focus strictly on the love of couples came from, which the story of the saint encouraged as well as the papal decree to transfigure the old Roman holiday about fertility into this other holiday which ties in a Christian story of love. Official media encouraged the idea that it isn’t only the day of lovers but of love on the whole: for your partner, for your family, your friends and even the Homeland.
Bear in mind that there is another holy trinity in Cuban revolutionary ideology: “Homeland, Revolution and Socialism” which need to be seen as a single entity. However, love for the Homeland didn’t really catch on with this holiday, while love generally-speaking has been accepted by a significant number of Cubans. Nevertheless, love for your partner continues to prevail and be the main meaning of this holiday.
I’m personally in favor of allegorical holidays and I don’t really care if capitalists or the self-employed take advantage of them to drive up their sales. Worse still is not being able to choose or that there isn’t anything to give as a gift because of a lack of efficient trades people, who are willing to make a living by satisfying our wishes and our happiness.
Life is always good, it’s a gift, a unique opportunity which needs to be enjoyed in all its nuances. Sprinkling in a dozen holidays throughout the year, where something that is important to the people becomes a reason to break their routine, is a very good thing.
Consumerism is in people’s heads anyway, via the psychological effect that propaganda, fashion or prolonged shortages have. And thanks to the Special Period and Radical Socialism’s Permanent Structural Crisis, here in Cuba, we have learned to give useful and much-needed gifts.
An intelligent or almost compulsory practice due to our low incomes and a market that is lacking in offers. A market marked by over exaggerated prices as well, even when you compare it to other economies where a minimum salary earned working 8 hours is the equivalent of two months of an average salary in Cuba.
I don’t know whether lovers’ day is an official holiday in our country. I know that several countries in the Americas think of it as such and some have even associated it with friendship. It needs to be made official (if it isn’t already) and July 30th also needs to be promoted as Friendship Day, in order to separate these two holidays which have different reasons. The latter has already been approved by the UN.
It’s beautiful to watch people in love give each other flowers, a present or a simple card. I don’t see the point of cards unless you are far away from each other. I prefer a hug and a present when possible. I like to share this day with my partner, alone or with another couple who are friends who we hardly get to see because of the kids.
When celebrating this holiday, I don’t really care whether the story of Saint Valentine is a myth or real (it’s said that he used to marry soldiers going against Roman law). I am a man in love, not only with my wife, with my children too, my family, my Cuba and with what I do for it to be a better country: especially with journalism.
However, I only celebrate the love I have for my partner on this day. I congratulate those who, like me, have been lucky enough to find love and good luck to those who are looking for it! I can tell you that it’s always well worth it.