The Mark of the Eggs

Ernesto Perez Chang

Repudiation of 1980 Mariel emigrants. – Photo: Revista la Nacion de Argentina

HAVANA TIMES, July 9 — In 1980, Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser murdered his wife during an attack of schizophrenia.  Also dying that year —though not at the hands of Althusser— were Sartre, Roland Barthes, and Bon Scott (the lead singer of AC/DC).

In Cuba, though, we remember that year because one could buy a dozen eggs for a peso [about five cents USD]; these had not yet been reduced to sales through the rationing system or on the black market.

Hens had not been wiped out, and nor were they as nervous as the ones today, which can only lay when placed in conditions more overwhelming than those generated by the combined amounts of legal paperwork from a merger of two transnational steel corporations and a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Those hens, perhaps of Russian stock, produced eggs all the time, throughout the whole year and at a rate that was faster than we could consume them.  The moment came when there were too many eggs, and therefore it occurred to some official to employ them in launching a political initiative against the “enemy.”

Something strange happened that year whereby everything was in excess.  If some Marxists took to murdering their wives, then some Cubans —perhaps seeing the beards of their fellow men burning— took to seeking escape from the island.

This left the country divided between those who wanted to leave because they couldn’t support either the eggs or the excesses, and those who wanted to stay to comply with the order to throw eggs at the first group in mass “actions of repudiation” and “marches of the fighting people.”

Slogans were chanted against Jimmy Carter, the same one who struck an accord with Torrijos and boycotted the Moscow Olympics, while people here threw eggs at those absconders who perhaps a wise economist choose to call “worms” because he or she foresaw that in a spring not far away, when both eggs and rubles had become scarce, they would return transformed into stunning butterflies with green, federal-reserve-style wings.

I was barely nine years old but I remember that in the afternoons the president of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution used to send us to go by houses to leave slips of paper with the names and addresses of the “scum” in my neighborhood, who were never “military.”

Mariel Refugees

Scum was not exactly a vile or worthless person, not even industrial waste.  Scum was those “civilian” neighbors who wanted to emigrate to the United States.  The order from the Party was to punish them with signs and eggs in “lightning rallies,” which were a kind of brief and improvised educational carnival that sought to teach, firstly, that “for betraying the homeland” they would suffer the consequences; and secondly, directed to the international community, that the Mariel exodus was the plot of a minuscule clique of undesirables.

But the house of the “worm/scum” was always the same as some friend of ours.  Nonetheless, after seven or eight at night, we would obey our parents —who in turn obeyed the Party— and accompany them in the chanting of slogans and the throwing of eggs.  We would forget that little kid, who we later heard crying, terrified by the crowd, had played with us in the park that very same afternoon.

Some —especially those who never accepted the neighborhood being invaded by “civilians”— were inflamed to the point of beating on the doors and windows of those houses with sticks while screaming obscenities and violent phrases.  On one occasion they smashed in a door and dragged out a family beating them.  I can still hear the cries of those children, as well as the pleas of their parents as they doubled over these children to protect them from the fiery torrent of clothes pulling, swings and spit.  I remember the face of each one of the family members there, and I can assure you there was no compassion for any one of them.

Today it’s strange to hear to someone talk about those days.  Of those formerly inflamed souls, there are a few who would turn around and do the same thing again.  Despite the years that have lapsed, they have not seen the times change.  Others, the majority…I don’t know.  Plus, some of them no longer live in the neighborhood.  Years later, in the 1990s, people built rafts and flatboats and —without anyone throwing eggs at them or calling them worms or scum— they emigrated to the United States.

Of the repudiated families, there are still some of them left.  Patience and silence have been their lesson.  They walk down the street and greet their former aggressors as if nothing had ever happened.  I sometimes believe they didn’t understand what happened that year, nor can I believe that everything has been forgotten.  Could it be resignation…simple resignation?

Whoever visits Havana today will be able to confirm that the stains of the smashed eggs still remain on some buildings.  Despite the rain that has fallen since 1980, and though they try to cover them with paint and slogans, the eggs refuse to disappear.  I don’t know if it’s so that we remember the madness of that year here or if it’s a message to us concerning resignation and faith.


11 thoughts on “The Mark of the Eggs

  • July 12, 2010 at 1:39 am
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    Circles, I am sorry some how your email got automatically miss filed into my email account and I did not see the explanation.

    I believe the video of the execution is legit but I really do not have proof I think I did manage to find more reference references to that video from some family member of the person been executed.
    I did also manage to see the same video as part of an american news documentary of these early days of the Cuban revolution where not only that person was executed but some one else.

    We all know these thing happened in the early years of the revolution. I do not think anyone will denied that they actually happened.
    What I am critical about is that these people never got a fair trial so how do we really know that they were guilty? Where are the proofs?
    The Cuban regime criminal justice system seem to still work under the assumption of “You are guilty until you proof you are innocent”
    How could any single individual who is accused be safe in such system?

    Here in the US many “criminals” have been executed and even as you know that the process takes a long time between the trial and the actual execution on purpose so that no mistake is made it is very likely that we may have executed an innocent person. This could happen because we are humans and all human can err. Nobody is free from that. So it is better to err on the safe side and not execute anyone.

  • July 12, 2010 at 12:33 am
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    Julio, as I wrote you in an e-mail, we didn’t publish one of your comments because it had a link to a violent video from a dubious source. It had nothing to do with it adjusting to our views. Best, Circles

  • July 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm
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    Grady they may have been butchers nevertheless they should have had a chance at a fair trial not a roman circus. I do not agree with murder. Simply I do not agree either with death penalty in any form. No matter what country or regime does it.

    I am here critical of Cuba’s actions because this site is about Cuba not Chile so my comments are directed to Cuba. If this site was about Chile I would direct similar comments to what the Chileans had to suffer.

    I have posted other things here regarding this same subject but unfortunately the editors here did not published it I am not sure why. I like to ask the editor here what are he rules for posting because is very unfair from them to publish the comments that adjust more or less to their views while filtering other comments that they may not agree with. If think the editor should be impartial. I also have to say that the editors here have publish the great majority of my comments but a few. Maybe they got accidentally deleted, if that is the case I will like to know that too. Thanks.

  • July 11, 2010 at 7:42 am
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    PS: Plz see my comment in this issue of HT “A Garden With A Guillotine” re the death penalty.

  • July 11, 2010 at 7:35 am
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    Julio: I remember when the new Cuban Revolution tried and shot several hundred (I believe) criminal butchers of the Bastista dictatorship. I remember them being tied to posts and facing the people’s justice. This was one thing.

    I also remember when Pinochet in Chile murdered the elected president and slaughtered the youth in the soccer stadium. And I remember the disappeared youth of Argentina, and the bodies dumped each night in Central America by the U.S. backed Death Squads. This was not the people’s justice, and it was something quite different.

    You could be more evenhanded. In the last analysis I think you are only deluding yourself.

  • July 10, 2010 at 11:51 pm
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    Even more let us go back to just 2003
    You can read this document file UNHCR (United Nations Refuge agency

    by International Commission of Jurists regarding summary execution of 3 Cubans

    http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,ICJURISTS,,CUB,,48a9281c0,0.html

    I could place many many examples but you get the idea that I have documentation to back what I am talking about.

  • July 10, 2010 at 7:13 pm
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    I’m with Grady on this one.

    After changing personality again – from the “we (The US)” to the “we Cubans” one – Julio is the one who appears to have no idea about the Death Squads of the 80’s, the epoch we’re talking about by the way. Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador… professional assassins graduated at the (in)famous School of the Americas backed by the Democracy Champions©, the US of A.

    Now it’s happening in Honduras… again.

  • July 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm
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    Grady
    If you know a bit about Cuban history of the revolution you will know that the days of the beginning of the revolution many murders were committed by those that are still in power today.
    They had the dead squads all out in the open it was a roman circus.
    The objective was to instill fear on people so that nobody will be oppose to what was to come afterward.
    I am sorry to be crude but it seems that you have no idea what we Cubans had to endure.

  • July 10, 2010 at 4:30 am
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    Too bad Reinaldo Arenas felt so oppressed by the anti-gay atmosphere and the cultural bureaucracy during that epoch that he was forced to flee, thus unintentionally speeding up his own demise (landing in the States just at the time of the initial wave of the A.I.D.S. epidemic); had he lived, by now he’d be producing his greatest works of mature fiction. Then again, we should be grateful that at least we have the works he did produce in his short life. We should also be grateful that we learn from our mistakes and the absurd posturing of our youth

  • July 9, 2010 at 9:44 pm
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    Yes, and one traditional way in other Latin American countries of treating those who disagree with the status quo and try to organize against it is to disappear them.

    The Death Squad in the night is more horrible than eggs, but to paraphrase the old saying, you can’t compare egg stains and cut throats.

    Julio and the writer of the article unfortunately give the impression that the Cuban bureaucratic leadership invented injustice. Not true. The United States leaders have murdered millions of human being over the decades and continue to do so.

    The record of capitalism is horrific, and it goes on every day as we speak. Civilization is brought to the brink of annihilation by environmental damage, but there is not great hue and cry from those legitimately angry at the state monopoly socialism of Cuba.

    Thanks for the informative story, Ernesto. Now perhaps you can write something that puts it more in perspective, and point a damning finger at the real criminals who bestride the world.

  • July 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm
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    I have learn also that some of these people that were so abused by the power have returned to Cuba and returned the eggs to those that threw eggs at them in the new time of scarcity.

    Those who were abuse giving back eggs so that their former enemies could eat and live!!
    What a humanitarian gesture!

    Life is really full of ironies.

    We know these people were instigated by the regime to do this acts. This were not spontaneous acts as the regime try to make them appear. They were organized from the top. Probably with the objective to instill fear on people that will like to migrate so that they would not follow the steps of others.

    Those were very sad days for all Cubans.

    Let us hope the regime will never repeat this actions again.

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