By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — In true French Revolution-style, during the time of Robespierre and the infallible guillotine, the forced decision to name the years was established here in Cuba. The new leadership didn’t go to the extremes of creating another calendar even though they made some changes to the existing one, linking in a new atheism. As it turns out, we will be celebrating the “60th anniversary of the Revolution” but, what are the Cuban people really thinking?
In a bar corner, several friends are talking with glasses of rum between them. “Are you celebrating the “31st” (the last day of the year) in advance?” I ask, to which a tall slim man wearing glasses responds: “Journalist, every day is the same here, this is all we have,” he shows me his glass, “and let’s see if luck is on my side and I hit a number in the “lottery”,” his friend finishes off his sentence while downing his glass.
Indeed, the Miami lottery is played twice a day and the so-called “Parle” (grand prize) gives the lucky winner up to 1000 pesos for every peso bet among the thousands of possible combinations that exist using any number from 1-100. That’s why it is called “the hope of the poor”, for good reason. While it is formally banned by the law, this lottery is a widespread practice which many partake in.
Looking for information, hard-currency stores (TRDs) offer interesting details to the sharp eye as well as one or two statements, few really because the Cuban people live with fear in their very bones.
The first thing that strikes the eye is an unusual crowd outside the Carlos III shopping center on the right-hand corner of the main entrance, right next to the Cubitas Cafe.
Although chaos prevails among these hundreds of people, two lines can be made out; one of these is to receive remittances at a Western Union office, where Maria and Magdalena, “what a biblical pair”, agree to make a comment: “We are going to celebrate because my brother sent us some money from New Jersey, otherwise, we would have spent New Year’s without anything besides those cheap pizzas and sodas.”
The other line that was taking shape had to do with a few crates of Cristal beer, nationally produced, which is in high demand. People were getting desperate because two security guards who were looking after the precious load, didn’t have any information about when this foamy liquid would go on sale. Finally, people found out that they could buy three boxes each, of the traditional containers that have 12 cans in each.
At the WIFI hotspot on Carlos III avenue, on the corner of Belascoain street, other comments could be heard: Lazarito (about 12 years old) and his mother were talking to the father of the former and the husband of the latter via IMO: “We can celebrate this year, Lazaro, my husband, who put everything on the line to travel thousands of kilometers from Ecuador to Texas, can come home taking advantage of one of the Cuban government’s most recent decisions. Now, we will definitely have a new year worth celebrating!”
However, things relating to immigration have only got more complicated and people are sad because Obama, seemingly in agreement with Trump, revoked the “wet-foot/dry-foot policy” during the turnover of power, which was the essence of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which is still in force. The icing on the cake came when immigration proceedings were suspended by the US embassy in Cuba. A furious man shouts out at the entrance of a gothic church on Reina street:
“They (the leaders) spend all day pointing the finger at each other while we, the underdogs, go from bad to worse. If Mariela Castro, who is always traveling, wants to travel to New York, she can easily get her visa without having to travel to Mexico.”
There are people who have reasons to celebrate as they have had luck on their side when it comes to not running into problems with the authorities with their businesses, while others haven’t, like Maydelin, who sells clothes and shoes in a market and laments: “I will celebrate the 1500 peso fine I received last week for selling imported clothes [competing with the monopoly government stores]. Of course, nobody buys the clothes made here. Everything comes from other countries legally, but we beat the State when it comes to quality and price.”
The “hotheaded” group in Central Park gives us some political opinions, they discuss everything and in the run-up to 2018, their debate centers around current President Raul Castro. Someone asks, will he really leave power? The majority agree when they say that these people never let go, he will be the power behind the scenes, you’ll see.
An old lady begging closes this report: “I’ve been receiving the same measly bit of chicken once a month for 30 years, while tourism has gone from zero to five million. We still can’t see any improvements. I don’t have anything to celebrate.”
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]