Text and Photos by Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 8 – Many people didn’t know who organized the march, but that was the least important. Sometime after five in the afternoon on Friday, November 6, around a hundred persons -mainly young artists- gathered in downtown Havana to begin walking in support of nonviolence, tolerance and love.
Their journey was just a few blocks. They began at 23rd and G Street and proceeded five blocks to the Havana Libre Hotel, at 23rd and L Streets.
There, they made a U-turn at the Coppelia ice cream parlor to then return to where they started.
The marchers wielded posters with red letters reading “No More Violence,” “Only Peace and Love in Our Hearts,” “For the Future of Our Children,” their action inspired reflection.
They also urged people walking along the main downtown avenue to join in, and singing songs like “All You Need Is Love” (by the Beatles), smiles and a brisk pace characterized the brief pilgrimage.
Some said this was the first march that was not organized by the officialdom (Cubans have more than enough experience with that matter).
Instead, it was said to be spontaneous – though this is difficult to believe. In any case it’s always noble to appeal for the elimination of violence.
To live in a world full of love and peace is a much-trumpeted ideal of many people, though they don’t always work in that direction.
The aim of the march was good, without a doubt, but there was something that tarnished it.
Perhaps it was the indifference of the surrounding citizens, who were waiting for buses or in line for a little something to eat or about to have ice cream.
Maybe it was the constant surveillance by the police, who appeared to be guarding the marchers, and the others who weren’t in uniform -although everyone knew why they were there.
But many of us felt the strange sensation of having participated in a staged production, meticulously prepared, in which we all played some particular role.
This was felt especially at the end when, after the applause, the leaders posed smiling for pictures.
Then I wondered: What are they congratulating themselves about? Was this march perhaps a performance? Who initiated the applause? Why did the others tail behind them like domesticated animals?
To me, I felt like I was at a circus, and that its function had not been what I expected. I began to doubt how genuine the action had been.
To protest for peace it’s necessary to have inner peace. Nothing can be imposed on its behalf; that would be crude manipulation, deceit.
I believe the march should have been slower so that people could have interacted, that someone should have explained to those who only observed of what was going on; that the police should have marched along with others proclaiming truly peaceful coexistence; that people at the bus stops should have joined in freely.
But we are not prepared for peace; we don’t know how to build it.
While the marchers smiled for the digital and video cameras, in the background there was a strange energy charged with wary looks, suspicious cars and cell phones communicating every so often.
The issue of violence is indeed complex. I hope that we will learn from this effort. We need a journey to the inner soul to then take to marching to the streets.