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

    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

    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

    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.

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