A Cuban Chernobyl and a Childhood Story

Photo: Getty Images

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – Paraphrasing an old saying here, you could say that there’s not a Saturday that goes by without sun, and a Sunday without a blackout. Well, we are having blackouts on Saturdays too, Mondays and any other day.

I’ve been lying on my bed, sweaty and awake, since 3 AM, without being able to fall back asleep. Almost dawn, I get up tired, knowing that my eyes won’t close again. I take a shower and begin my day before I’d planned, with the news that there were explosions at the super tanker port in Matanzas on Friday night.  

The Government hasn’t explained the causes yet, and there are reports of the death and disappearance of the young firemen who were sent there to try and extinguish the fire.

Seventeen of these young men went missing with the first explosion, one was discovered dead, another with critical injuries who later passed away and several others sustained burns. We know the missing firemen are dead, even though no official authority has confirmed this.

Families are anxiously and desperately waiting for news, but it’s clear that they must be dead.

Days pass by and aid from Mexico and Venezuela seem useless, as their equipment doesn’t seem to be compatible with our own. Tanks continue to explode. The US has offered technical and humanitarian assistance, but in order for this to be effective, the Cuban Government needs to make a formal request for it, which it won’t do.

Everything is left as a conversation, nothing comes of it. It’s like they’d rather sink the country than accept something from the “Empire” and what’s worse, recognize their incapacity to deal with the situation. It’s clear that neither their children nor loved ones will be exposed to the consequences of this Cuban Chernobyl, the greatest environmental disaster in Cuban history.

Black smoke fills the sky in Matanzas city, despite the efforts of resigned firemen. Lots of people are still evacuating themselves from the area. This air contamination will cause all kinds of disease amongst the Matanzas population, not to mention make the national energy crisis even worse.

But we have to hold onto hope, even if doesn’t do anything for those parents who lost their children, victims of negligence and compulsory military service, because I’m sure the children of the ruling elite aren’t called upon and much less enrolled in such a dangerous profession as being a fireman, which is normally a profession people voluntarily choose in other countries.

Meanwhile, news in the official press is confusing and demagogic in a country where everything is subjected to its leaders’ political interests. YouTubers, Cuban journalists based in Miami and independent media are providing more credible information about what is going on.

It’s Tuesday night and it’s the same old story, they’ve cut the electricity. My cellphone is quite charged up. Unable to sleep, I sit in the living room and study old family photos that I keep among my most sacred possessions. I look at one from when I’m 11 years old, it’s quite worn out, and I begin to travel in the past and remember my childhood, that time when I didn’t think about anything else but playing and having fun.

I remembered something funny that happened with my friend Tomasito and La China, the beautiful 15-year-old who would wear short, short clothes and tease boys with her flirtiness. She wasn’t loose though, she just liked their attention.

Tomasito had talked to me about sex-hungry women, who he said were the ones that would go to a dark place with you and enjoy doing everything a man asked them for. “La China is sex-hungry,” he told me.

In my childish reasoning, I thought that if she wanted to and I asked her “to make love” (there were other words but I can’t write them here), she would happily do it. I had never been into zoophilia, which is very common amongst children and teenagers in rural Cuba, at least when I was growing up. I wanted human women and the older they were, the better.

Well anyway, I told Tomasito “talk to La China for me and tell her I want “to make love” to her.”

That afternoon, I placed myself in a pile of marabu weeds behind her backyard. Tomasito went up to her and told her, “China, Pedrito is back there and wants to tell you something,” pointing over to where I was.

It wasn’t what we’d agreed and I began to withdraw among the thorns and marabu, but it was too late. La China had seen me and came in to find out what it was I wanted.

“I want water,” I quickly said and not thirsty, forced myself to drink half a glass of warm water.

Remembering this puts a smile on my face, until I return to present plagued with hardship.

I discover that the fire has begun to die down. Even though we’ll have to deal with the disastrous effects this will have on agriculture, human health, and the environment, at least it’s a bit of relief amidst so much disheartening news.

Read more from the diary of Pedro Pablo Morejon here.



Pedro Morejón

I am a man who fights for his goals, who assumes the consequences of his actions, who does not stop at obstacles. I could say that adversity has always been an inseparable companion, I have never had anything easy, but in some sense, it has benefited my character. I value what is in disuse, such as honesty, justice, honor. For a long time, I was tied to ideas and false paradigms that suffocated me, but little by little I managed to free myself and grow by myself. Today I am the one who dictates my morale, and I defend my freedom against wind and tide. I also build that freedom by writing, because being a writer defines me.

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