“To those who have health, cheers! Cheers like the slaves used to say,” said a smiling gentleman, greeting me back in January upon the arrival of the new year. He’s a retired doctor, the father of a friend.
As for me —surprised by not having heard that phrase before but without wanting to investigate more into that reference— I used to think that good health was the most common and sincere greeting that people could wish for others on the island every year.
Over the last two decades, though, I’ve heard this added: “May you never lack money or luck,” which is seasoned with the joy, jeering or cynicism that Cubans mix in daily dialogue.
Each passing year, there’s also a big hole in the pockets and souls of those who try to predict what will happen at the beginning of the coming year. There’s no missing out on hearing the phrase:
“This year things are going to be really hard.” Likewise, as expectations for 2010, I heard: “They say they’re going to take away the ration books” and “The country’s ability to obtain credits is in crisis, no one wants to sell us anything; so the first semester of this year is going to be very tight” – as we’re now seeing.
Obviously the hope to remain healthy over the coming times has survived for centuries among Cubans, a people like others who are unable to completely control all aspects of their lives; they must subordinate these to unstable events that determine the future of the planet. This is where the intrinsic abandonment of the human being produces many doubts, marking the 24 hours of the day, and even more so the next 24 hours, and even more so the next…
To me, the greater importance attached to wishing people good health is a symptom of the declining hope for the improvement of life across society. Don’t you think so?