HAVANA TIMES – On July 11, 2021, the inhabitants of San Antonio de los Baños, a town southwest of Havana in the province of Artemisa, took to the streets to peacefully protest against the government and demand freedom, democracy and improvements in living conditions. It was the beginning of a wave of protests without precedent in the last 60 years, which spread throughout the country and was violently repressed.
Two years later, the town looks gray; people walk by inertia, as if they don’t want to be where they are. Many have left and it shows. The empty parks, the most central streets with few people who only mix to queue when a product appears in the stores. People go from home to work and from work to home.
Before, young people made their lives here. They decided to stay in town. The guitars, the jovial and peaceful atmosphere always present in San Antonio de los Baños. For the past two summers, nightlife has changed: fewer young people and more police in the parks.
After everything that has happened, from the pain of seeing the possibility of economic and political change cut short, many of the young people have decided to leave. Few intend to live their best years in the country that stifled their desire for freedom and peace. Despair, a word loaded with tangible pain, is in the air that the streets of the town give off, in the mothers of political prisoners. Those who have lost faith walk with a slow, nostalgic step.
Even so, perhaps with less force and less people, this town continues to embrace its children and its visitors. La Amparucha, Humboldt 7, the Biennial of Humor, the International Film School, the first place where people said enough is enough… all this is San Antonio. The town of Humor where lately it’s hard to smile, but they welcome you with open arms.