Searching for Silence in Cuba

By Aurelio Pedroso  (Progreso Semanal)

An apartment block in Matanzas under a restrictive quarantine since Friday April 10th. Photo: Prensa Latina.

HAVANA TIMES – The confinement, voluntary for some, obligatory for others, does not necessarily imply calm or tranquility and one is the reason. If for historical housing problems, where several generations live in a house or apartment, it’s not impossible to imagine the whirlwind that is experienced during the hours of sunlight. And if it’s an apartment building, we will find everything.

In the first order, the screaming. Cubans, as a rule do not speak, but shout. Or to soften those who are offended, speak loudly.

The children of the house are of various categories such as grandchildren, children, nephews and even cousins. They are like little caged beasts that never in their short life have had to be quarantined like this, just like the older ones.
Little Valeria, three years old, clarifies it from balcony to balcony: “I’ll come down when the virus goes away.”

Cuban kids are uneasy by nature, used to playing with friends, running, jumping and at home right now they have an insurmountable barrier that only keeps them half entertained during the hours of children’s television programming.

Adults don’t escape this necessary prison episode either. The elderly ones, repeat the same stories like Radio Reloj does, but are also constantly scolding kids and other relatives who, as if to alleviate other noise, put the music of their preference a few meters apart in a decibel fight between reggaeton, rock and salsa, not to mention that music known as “vitrola.”

Even in moments of relative calm, through the windows, like hurricane gusts, the voices of the neighbors arrive, talking about the line to buy chicken, asking if the potatoes arrived at the ration store, that someone should turn off the water pump, the parrot that during full daylight doesn’t stop repeating “see you tomorrow”, and even that very Cuban way of communicating between neighbors with the sound of screaming.

Heated exclamations also come from outside the building. A month after the Covid-19 first impacted in Cuba, with the prohibitions and reminders to stay within four walls, daring street vendors announce that they bring mop sticks, brooms and clothes pins; others, savory tamales but accompanied by a sports referee’s whistle, and the recorded cry of the ice cream vendor.

There is also the seller of homemade yogurt, which, for fear of being fined and having the valuable cargo seized, modulates his voice in such a way that achieves a proper directional tone of a cemetery that reaches everyone.

Journalists at home are sometimes not respected and, considered fillers or extras, we have to participate in such a hubbub always ready to be interrupted every two minutes in this endless cooperative activity in home duties consisting of bringing this, carrying that, reaching for something, watch the pot, water the plants.

I thought that the early morning was the most appropriate time to concentrate. Almost complete silence. Zero bustle. The dogs in the building slept alongside the cats in complicit harmony.

I began to try to explain how we lived in the confinement when suddenly a woman’s wailing disturbed the peace of dawn. The pain seemed more like an asthma attack with broken and poorly defined words.

Finally, it turned out the peculiar morning alarm had no other protagonist than the neighbor on the first floor, frenetic in speaking, deranged in other horizontal needs. All this, just when around six in the morning the sparrows began to sing in Havana to announce one more day and another less.

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2 thoughts on “Searching for Silence in Cuba

  • Me encanto leer ese texto, gracias al autor.

  • Esta es la vida ahora

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