An eagle fallen on its head is split in two by a red triangle. The triangle, with a white star in the center, splits the eagle at its thorax, just where the eagle itself (in an ancient Greek myth) ripped out the entrails of Prometheus, day after day.
Day after day I have to see this billboard, with a slogan stating that we will never be conquered or subjugated.
I don’t worry much about the contrast of so many billboards of such bad taste along the roads that lead to the most beautiful beaches in Havana province.
Neither am I overly concerned about the fact that the billboard is wrong: we were already conquered in 1492, by the fun-loving Spanish and we were subjugated to them (nearly to the point of exterminating our native population) and then again by those governments all-too friendly with the North Americans, including the US government itself.
What really worries me is the return of the nightmare. Constantly seeing this poor quartered bird, with the aggressiveness hidden behind the slogan, I could start having war dreams.
War is not a figment of my imagination. It was real.
I believe it was during the years of the Reagan administration. On several occasions my father would arrive home with specific instructions of what to do in case of an air raid.
I was no more than 10 years old, but I had already seen enough Russian (war) movies in which the bombs had no respect for anything. They might blow to pieces a cute little dog, or obliterate a house or explode right on top of a child.
When the airplanes come, there is nowhere to hide from them. They find you wherever you are. If it’s nighttime, you can’t turn on the lights and the forced darkness causes terror even in adults.
They recommended that we dig out a shelter in the backyard of the house. I asked my father if I could hide my teddy bear, Misha, there. My father (who had already lived through one war, in Angola, which he didn’t enjoy) got very upset and told me no.
– Only necessities in the shelter, water and food, he said.
Thus the horrible clayey hole emerged in our back yard, which filled with water every time it rained. Thus began those dreams too, in which I heard the sinister sound of an airplane or helicopter ready to quarter my family. The nightmares continued until just a year ago. I don’t think they were only caused by those scenes from childhood.
My dreams of war were fed daily not only by my memories of those days, but also by the discourse I heard on the radio, the television and the propagandistic billboards dispersed along all of our roads; by every document that I had to pick up at the Offices of Defense (in order to start a new job) or by those Sundays (less common now) in which I had to participate in a Defense Brigade in order to be ready in case of War.
War. War. War.
It’s hard to believe that a person can dream so much about something they have not actually experienced.
Most Cubans (besides those who fought in Africa) have never experienced war, but we all use the language or, in one way or another, we maintain our preparedness to confront it.
How terrible it is to live life preparing to kill others, so that they don’t kill us.
The shelter filled with garbage, water, weeds and, little by little, it filled in with the same soil that we had dug out of it.
I stopped calling my teddy bear Misha, but it is the only toy that I saved from my childhood. Reagan lost his interest in our country and slipped into the arms of Alzheimer’s.
Every month at workplaces we give a small contribution to the Territorial Militia Troops. I still don’t know what I would do if for real, one day, my country is engulfed in war.