When Voices Fell Silent

By Aurelio Pedroso (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES – A long time before those Italians came to the colonial city of Trinidad back in March 2020 and the country began to be consumed by the dangerous virus, lots of us were already protesting or complaining about how hard our everyday lives were.

Some people raised their voices a little louder and others were more muted in more intimate settings with family or friends, but they all had a pretty common denominator.

We were still a while away from the worse moments that soon came after.

There is countless evidence that could be shown to a non-legal court about how things have gone from bad to worse.

In my own personal case, I have the example of a small garden/backyard in the building. As punctual as a Swiss watch, you could hear people’s voices selling some kind of service from the early morning hours until dusk.

From behind and moving forward. The tamale maker was the last one to end the night and the guayaba or coconut cake seller was the one to kick off the day, always with a cheeky grin every time somebody asked him when he’d have meat pasties.

In this short period, some people with their announcements recorded with cries that scare children, ice cream sellers would pass by as would those who announced even gaceñiga cake and breadsticks; the lady selling brooms, mops and clothes pins; people who would buy empty perfume bottles and not to start a collection exactly; carpenters promising small repairs; mattress repairers; people who would do you the favor of improving TV programs, at least with a decent antenna so you can see the horror with better definition; the fearless cyclist who promoted these delicate sweets called  “señoritas”, and one or two illegal vendors with products that were more far-reaching than the whispers in a confessional.

Right now, the only thing we can sometimes hear is the century-old whistle of the knife and scissor sharpener and the people with vegetable carts, who don’t raise their voices too loud to announce the onions and garlics they have at an exorbitant price because the other voices have fallen silent, because of different reasons we are all familiar with.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

5 thoughts on “When Voices Fell Silent

  • September 16, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    Remember the “Bay of Pigs” Ben?

    Kennedy made a commitment in the agreement with Nikita Khrushchev, that the US would not take military action against Cuba. The Cuban or Cuban American men to whom you refer, do not have a fraction of the military resources possessed by the Cuban regime, they do not even qualify as a toothless tiger.

    The concept that the Cuban or Cuban American population of Florida represents the people of Cuba is false. Those who initially fled Cuba, were predominantly supporters of Batista who correctly feared for their lives, and they seek predominantly restoration of property rights. The patriotic Cubans who remained in Cuba, and opposed the imposition of communism, were labelled “dissidents” and jailed. On successive occasions, a Pope would intervene and those dissidents would be released to go to Spain and it is they who would make a suitable source of potential political leaders of a free Cuba rather than those in Miami.

    There is an inclination in the US to political myopia.

  • September 15, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Ben Anson poses a question. “Who would stop a large flotilla of private boats? ” These in pursuit of trying to “liberate” Cuba.
    Their movement would be detected early and be subjected to surveillance. Approaches within Cuban waters would result in the Cuban navy taking to those waters. The helicopters which patrol the coastline would also be activated and the various guard stations along the coastline (yes they do exist), would also be warned. Cuba still has fighter jets.
    As for the other question posed of: “Why do the Cuban people talk so much about how bad it is in Cuba?” That is because it is bad in Cuba!

  • September 14, 2021 at 8:13 am

    It feels almost like you were in the place seeing the sellers passing by. My imagination made a kind of time lapse with all the vendors yelling.

  • September 13, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    From my perspective, I believe, Aurelio Pedroso, is making a very perceptive dichotomy between what was, and what is in Cuba presently.

    What was? What to him did he find acceptable and very culturally Cuban? Perhaps he is alluding to prior to the pandemic and/or July 11 protests.

    Life in Cuba was extremely difficult prior to the pandemic a pandemic that was unintentionally introduced by the Italians. Aurelio states that Cubans voiced their concerns and vehemently opposed their oppression before July 11. Those same protests and vocal opposition after July 11 have been muted because the very real consequences have silenced many.

    He writes: “Some people raised their voices a little louder and others were more muted in more intimate settings with family or friends, but they all had a pretty common denominator.” That common denominator is the misery Cubans have had to endure (raised voices a little louder prior to July 11) while others are more muted afterwards.

    Aurelio recounts the “good old days” when sellers would go up and down the streets from sun rise to sun down vocally trying to sell things to eke out a living. Some sellers with smiles on their faces “… always with a cheeky grin every time somebody asked him when he’d have meat pasties.” The irony there is quite evident: Where is the seller going to purchase meat to make pasties? Who can afford meat pasties? Perhaps that is where the sly “cheeky grin” comes from and the buyers perhaps fully agree.

    Aurelio describes how in the past every seller had to be very vocal on the streets to earn a living. He witnessed sellers making attempts to earn some form of living: from ice cream sellers, broom sellers, carpenters, the odd jobbers promising to do anything a potential buyer wants, and even the illicit dealers plying their trade for a few hard earned pesos.

    To attract potential buyers the sellers needed to raise their voices on the streets and alleys to have people come out and view the wares or negotiate a purchase.

    According to Aurelio, now, that cacophony of sound from sellers has been muted or at least silenced some what. Why? He writes: “ . . . because of different reasons we are all familiar with.” Here he leaves the reasons up to the reader to discern. Have the Cuban voices been silenced by the pandemic? Masked people cannot shout and be as vibrant in their vocal pronouncements as unmasked people? The pandemic has taken a toll on the sellers ability to sell because of government restrictions causing more misery for most Cubans both sellers and buyers.

    Has July 11 muted some sellers? Voices and sellers’ shouts have fallen silent perhaps because of fear? The state police are on high alert for “shouters” on city streets and no doubt the authorities will not tolerate anyone shouting in the streets and if the shouting is misconstrued as negative this may result in unintended negative consequences for sellers and buyers. It happened on July 11. Innocent street walkers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were swept up in the police crackdown.
    Best to be compliant and quiet. But that is not very Cuban. Silence is the anathema of the Cuban culture and spirit. I am sure the Cuba Aurelio is witnessing today has changed, has changed for the worse because the vibrant, vocal, boisterous Cuban he once knew and enjoyed hearing seems to have disappeared, voices to his dismay, silenced.

    That is my take on Aurelio Pedroso’s “When Voices Fell Silent”

  • September 12, 2021 at 10:26 am

    I am not sure that I understand the point of this post….

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