A Year End Peek at Guantanamo, Cuba

Rosa Martinez

Guantanamo, Cuba. Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 30 —  Most people in Guantanamo and all Cuba are wrapped up today in preparations for New Years Eve.  Some went to work early, but there remain only a few hours to not leave anything pending for the new calendar.

Others — like those who work in the health care field, food service and any other type of service — are remaining on their jobs.  However, the great majority of people, like me, are already at home or in the streets searching for provisions for this year’s last dinner and the first one for next year.

Today, taking advantage of the second farmer’s market in December, organized by the provincial government, I left home especially early in search of vegetables for our family’s New Year’s dinner.  But instead of seeing the vegetables being sold in different points of the city, I stopped to observe people on this next to the last day of 2010.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the death of two people on the same block, not far from my house.  Two young women, seemingly full of life, had died from heart attacks and didn’t make it to 2011.

“Thing are bad.  Those make the second and third deaths this week,” I heard a 40-year-old woman say.  I continued walking; I didn’t want to hang around on that block because if death was lurking nearby, I didn’t want it to catch me.

A few streets later I heard a young guy say to his sister, “Hurry up Candida, the coal vender is going to leave, and it seems like he has some good coal.”  They were already preparing to roast a pig.  I don’t believe that little animal will make it to 2011 either.

Cafeteria in Guantanamo, Cuba. Photo: Caridad

At the depot of the horse drawn wagons I could already see more people than usual waiting for our main form of transportation.  “Why is there such an agglomeration of people if almost nobody is going to work today?” I wondered aloud.  Someone seemed to hear me and said: “The problem is that the drivers are on vacation too.  So there are only a few who are working, which means that you have to practically kill yourself trying to get on.”

“Also, to make matters worse, there is an inspector there on the corner.  They spend the whole year doing nothing and then they choose the next to the last day of the year to inspect the wagons.  Today isn’t the day to inspect anything, and much less the time to be screwing with people who just want to end their year in peace,” said an old man to another person who obviously agreed but kept his mouth shut.

I was only observing, and since I wasn’t in the mood to spend a lot of effort trying to catch a wagon on the 30th of December, I caught a motorcycle and continued on my way.

The motorist was very young, and even more hurried than young.  The ride seemed more like that of an airplane than a motorcycle.  I had to tell him to slow down because I wanted to get to where I was going alive.

“We almost killed an old man,” I told him, upset.

“He was a drunk,” the young driver responded.

“So then he deserves to die?” I asked.

“No…of course not.  What I meant was that it wouldn’t be my fault if I ran over him.  But you’re right, I’m going too fast,” he said more calmly, and finally slowed down.

I made it to the farmer’s market…well, to where there was supposed to have been a market.  There was nothing, or — better said — there was in fact a lot of people drinking and laughing.  The celebrations had already begun there.

I asked two men what had happened to the market.  The first fellow replied, “They said it would be on the 29th and 30th, but the residents around here said none of the vendors brought anything today.”   The other man then added: “The truth is that you didn’t miss out on much.  Yesterday the prices were in the clouds, just like with the private vendors, so whether you buy here at the fair or in the regular market, it’s all the same.”

Plaza in Guantanamo, Cuba. Photo: Caridad

In fact, what I was interested in was the seafood they always sell.  But on this occasion they hadn’t brought any, according to what people were saying.  I had no other alternative than to go someplace else to buy my produce — cabbage, tomatoes, onions and lettuce — at the same price I pay for them any other day.

By the time I got back home there were already lots of kids in the street playing baseball and flying kites, a favorite toy of that age.  But more than anything, they were making a big racket, running around excited in the street and bothering some of the crabbier old women on the street.  One of those ladies said, “I don’t want all you kids here, go and make your racket someplace else.”

It’s the next to the last day of the year and I came home to be with my loved ones.  It doesn’t matter that I didn’t find seafood.  And if this year we don’t have a pig to roast, or if there are only a few vegetables (because they’re pretty expensive) or if there aren’t any root vegetables, none of it really matters.  What’s important is that I’m here and my family is too.