Cuban Government’s Summer Campaign to Hide the Sad Reality

Screenshot of the video clip with which the government promotes summer in Cuba / Canal Caribe/YouTube

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – Before everything smelled different. The aroma that reached us during the months of July and August was that of the syrups from the slushies that refreshed, the cloying fragrance of the coconut lotion to tan on the beach, and the aroma of the pork rinds in the carnival kiosks. Now, Havana stinks everywhere and not even the official “summer mode” campaign can cover up the stenche of humidity, sewage and anguish.

This Sunday, a mountain of garbage on the corner of Neptuno and Campanario streets synthesized part of the essence of a city plunged into crisis and miasmas. Among the waste that overflowed the sidewalk and forced passersby to share space with the old collective taxis that pass along the central avenue, the box of a battery-powered fan stood out, a coveted object in a country where no one is excited about the end, in the short or medium term, of unwanted electrical outages.

A few centimeters from the appliance packaging, a cardboard box labeled with the Mexican brand Richmeat reminded us of one of the foods most consumed by families on this island. A “mixed seasoning” mincemeat with little nutritional value and dubious composition that has come to replace in many Cuban dishes the unattainable beef, the very expensive pork, the unstable chicken or the disappeared fish. Another empty box, which once had imported yogurts, stood out on the mound of waste and completed a painful part of our daily life: those products that can only be consumed by those who have foreign currency or family abroad to buy them.

A stench that fills everything, that sticks to our clothes, gets into our noses and we take home stuck in our hair and attached to our skin / 14ymedio

The trash diver who rummaged through the bags and remains to try to save something to resell later could not be missing from this puzzle made from stench and debris. Both the poor collector with his frayed jacket and his extremely thin body, and the neighbors who passed by and sorted through the debris of domestic life, ended up impregnated with the smell of so much filth. A stench that fills everything, that sticks to our clothes, gets into our noses and that we take home stuck in our hair and attached to our skin.

None of that stench seems to reach the idyllic scenes of sand, sea and fun that the official media broadcasts these days as a preamble to summer. In the musical theme that serves as the soundtrack to the school holidays, joy overflows, young people do not assemble a raft of disappointment to jump into the sea, the singer fantasizes about having “a good beer” on the seashore, without alluding to the fact that such an act would cost a retiree an entire week of pension, and everything exudes the perfume of hope.

In “summer mode” teenagers dance without worry, although in Havana’s slums parents advise their children not to go out at night because “a stab wound awaits you on any corner.” In “summer mode” the national obsession is not to buy a ticket to fly to Managua, and joy fills everything, displacing the popular weariness that does not sneak in anywhere in this stage set up to deceive the naive and the uninformed.

In the “summer mode” broadcast on national television, my city does not stink, people do not use a candle or a battery pack so their homes can overcome the blackout, and a lanky man with a lost look does not explore the dirt in search of of something salvageable or a little food to put in his mouth. Everything smells brand new in that parallel reality that they invite us to believe in. It has the aroma of a baby cologne trying to cover up the stench of collapse.

Translated by Translating Cuba.

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