When the Curtain Falls

Veronica Vega

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Last night, when getting off the bus that brought me home to Alamar, I saw a body lying on the side of Via Blanca highway covered by a black plastic sheet. Despite the darkness, the weak light allowed me to see the blood that had accumulated on the side of the road.

A young man was protesting that the police wouldn’t let him have the body of his own father, the investigation ritual was more important than his desperation, more important than his desire to keep the mass of blood and bones (still warm) safe from morbid stares, the filth of the asphalt, from abandonment.

Police officers, like doctors and lawyers, quickly know how to distinguish between what’s inconsequential and disposable and what’s useful.

Mingling among the curious onlookers, I wondered why we almost never think about how anyone can become the victim of a car accident or a fatality. We don’t ponder how our plans can become spoiled in an instant by our being hit by a car, a stabbing, the stopping between the systole and diastole: the show ends.

I imagined this man minutes earlier, in such a hurry to cross the street, weighed down with worries and loads of ephemeral solutions. I thought about those who were waiting for him but only received the official notice, which in turn was met with cries.

How do we forget that we’re only playing a game, performing a circus act that barely allows us to advance in our illusion of change around us, a setting that we think is unfair?

I remembered the months of thorny legal claims that resulted from my teenage son not being allowed to go to school because of his long hair. It has been a path of agonizing doubts and hopes that has led all the way to the Council of State (the highest governmental body).

The response? The Minister of Education has the absolute authority to impose his aesthetic criteria on all male students in the country, for almost all of their school years, except for college. (However this too is questionable because I know someone who was harassed in his own faculty for simply wearing dreadlocks when he was a psychology graduate student).

That educational policy was never discussed with the parents, let alone with the interested parties (the students). Nevertheless it was approved by FEEM (the Federation of High School Students, the organization that supposedly defends the rights of students, from high school through grade twelve) simply because it was a ruling that “came down,” like a divine command, like an unquestionable law that governs despite not having gone before the Ministry of Justice.

It doesn’t matter if it affects students’ extracurricular lives. It makes no difference if it’s also discriminatory, since only the Attorney General has the ultimate authority to decide if it violates the constitution or not. (Is it coincidence that there’s no Constitutional Court in Cuba like in many countries, responsible for specifically addressing complaints about violations of the constitution?)

Never mind the pacts signed under the International Convention of the Child. The psychological well-being of children is expendable in the name of an outdated and sexist approach. According to one deputy attorney general, opinions about respect for children’s dignity, about equal rights and so many others, are classified as fair aspirations (or dreams?) for the distant future of Cuba.

Leaving the tragedy behind, along with the chorus of bystanders along the Via Blanca highway, I thought about how the show can end when we least expect it and that there’s no time for useless battles.

I felt relief that my son decided to drop out of high school. He’ll look for other alternatives to studying. I gave up on appealing this case at more asphyxiating offices with their indolent functionaries who define justice in words and numbers that have no relationship to life.

Freedom is sometimes exercised by resigning, and other times by continuing to fight but from an angle in which at least you can breathe.


2 thoughts on “When the Curtain Falls

  • Correct he is a bump!

  • I am afraid that if his “psychological well-being” is dependent on his having long hair, he is going to have a problem with life. I’m not on side with you on this one. It is quite reasonable for a school to set some standards, including ones related to personal appearance. Your son should be thankful that he gets an education, get off his high horse, get a haircut – and an education. He is making a very bad decision at an early stage of life and I would have expected better of you than to support this attitude.

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