HAVANA TIMES — Ever since I was born (over 40 years ago, forgive me I don’t remember very well when exactly), I’ve lived on the outskirts of San Justo, one of Guantanamo city’s poor neighborhoods. These kinds of neighborhoods are, on the whole, inhabited by people with a low level of culture and we know what that means…
Arguments, illegal businesses, horse races, cock and dog fights, the informal “bolita” lottery, are just some of the evils, which are plentiful here.
In spite of these problems, characteristic of any third world country and the poverty that takes over some families, my neighborhood is full of legends and figures who don’t appear in any books, but do make an appearance in any soap opera today, like the Cuban one which was broadcast by Cuban TV recently and which received a great deal of criticism because it shows the reality of our country in a very brusque way.
I want to tell Havana Times readers about these people who give life to this place and tell you the anecdotes relating to them, so that you can get to know one of my city’s poorest neighborhoods, albeit the liveliest.
Here goes the first one…
Cheerful even in the face of adversity
It was late afternoon on Saturday October 1st. The province was on hurricane alert, the tropical storm “Matthew”, which had become a terrible category 4 hurricane just two days beforehand, was sharpening its teeth and getting ready to devour the Eastern provinces of Cuba, at least this is what Dr. Rubiera himself thought, the head of the Cuban weather forecast center.
Since the day before, people were running around in a frenzy looking for non-perishable food products such as biscuits, syrups, as well as coal, candles and they were reinforcing their houses too.
Sandy (2012) was still quite fresh in our memory, we could still remember the hundreds of homes that were destroyed and the countless material losses, and this was why the majority of people were following the measures set out by the Civil Defense troops.
On provincial radio and TV, the local population were asked to buy all of the products on the rations list that enter the food basket, because in the case that they would get destroyed by the heavy rainfall, they wouldn’t be compensated.
Around 8 PM, I headed towards the bodega store, which would be open until 11 PM, when I bumped into a large group of young people dancing to the beat of reggaeton.
While nearly everyone else in Guantanamo was preparing themselves to confront the imminent hurricane’s attacking one way or another, my youngest neighbors were carrying on as if nothing was happening and they were having a really good time, beer included.
“Don’t you know that a category 4 Hurricane, nearly 5, is heading straight for us?” I asked three people I knew among the crowd.
“Yes, yes we know, but what are we going to do? We’re having fun in case it’s the last time…”
I was speechless.