An Unwanted Guest at the Party

Rosa Martinez

Preparing the vegetables for the communal CDR stew.

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 1 — Three days ago, September 28 was celebrated all across Cuba, so I wanted to share what happened on my block with the readers of Havana Times.

September 28 is a national holiday. In all the provinces and municipalities of the country, rousing activities are held every year to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s largest mass organization: the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

This year the occasion was doubly special because the organization marked its fiftieth year of existence, so the fiesta promised to be quite a celebration.

In my neighborhood CDR, like in the rest of the country, activities begin during the weekend with voluntary work that centers on cleaning and fixing up the block.

I live in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the eastern part of the city, there’s a shortage of asphalted streets but lots of potholes and gutters that make it difficult to clean, though this is a vitally important task.

We collected debris and cleaned the green areas, gardens and small flowerbeds that we carefully keep up in our area.  I was actively involved in the cleaning work, not only because I’m a passionate defender of the environment, but because a dangerous enemy for people’s health —the Aedes aegypti mosquito— has attempted to establish itself here permanently.  Only proper hygiene can boot it out of its home and away from our area.

On Sunday afternoon, the 26th, the organizers of our block committee met at the president’s house to prepare decorations, plan the purchases of supplies and designate other tasks.  People talked about the possible visit of a certain neighbor who on other occasions had been welcome but this time didn’t seem to have good intentions.

On Monday morning, the 27th, homemakers took charge of the final details. The unwelcome guest showed up and acted rudely.  Vehemently, she said she would spoil the party and from early on was darting around from one location to another. But the whole neighborhood was alert and had been warned about a possible conflict…

During the afternoon the participants put up posters that announced the 50th year of the organization, and different colored flags were placed in front of the homes. They had barely put up some colorful paper chains when that same uninvited guest appeared undetected and casually destroyed some of the decorations, not to mention what she did to the poster that neighborhood artist Luis Carlos had drawn with so much care.  The letters were so smudged that you could barely make out half the writing.

When we began to peel the root vegetables that had been collected from among the residents on the block for the communal stew, that same person again returned.  However, some of the old ladies from the neighborhood stood up and spoke, which worked – because she went away.  We thought it was for good.

I’m exceptionally critical in the neighborhood, and there’s not a meeting in which I don’t meta la cuchareta (get my two cents in), as we say in good Cuban.  But I’m not very enthusiastic about neighborhood parties.  So, as usual, I stayed only for a minute then went home to go to sleep. I had classes the following morning and had to get up early.

According to what some of my neighbors told me, the unwanted guest reappeared at the very moment they had started serving stew from the improvised wood-burning stove.  She had the nerve to be the first served and had decided to stick around, so the other partygoers had no alternative but to wait along with her for midnight for the 50th anniversary of the CDR, since it didn’t stop raining the whole night.