Again Something From the "Wild West"

Photo: Rebeca

Three years ago I went with Rebeca to greet the New Year at some friends’ house, located on Águila Street in the Central Havana district. What happened to us there became the basis of a post in her blog in which she described events in what had to be called the “wild west.” We decided not to repeat that unpleasant experience. This year she is travelling, and since “man is the only animal who trips over the same stone twice,” I accepted our friends’ invitation.

At twelve midnight, at least on Aguila street, the savagery of three years ago was not repeated; this time only water was thrown.  Nevertheless, when after one in the morning I decided to retire, I found some adjoining streets — Neptune, San Miguel, San Rafael and others — besides being wet, had bags of waste and other objects scattered along them: the old and healthy custom of throwing water on the streets in order to dispose of the old year, has degenerated, for some, into this barbarity.

The renowned writer Leonardo Padura, wrote an article series not long ago, calling attention to the ruralization of the city of Havana, which has accelerated its deterioration and lack of hygiene.  I would go a little further and speak of its marginalization.  Abandoned by many of its children — those born here — and occupied progressively by immigrants from other provinces — with natural exceptions, not precisely in many cases their best exponents — it has been subjected to looting and destruction by those who lack emotional ties like identity with the city, and vulgarity, social indiscipline, disorder, physical and verbal violence, mistreatment, lack of respect, rudeness and many other negative phenomena, previously unknown, having prospered.  The terrible thing is that all this happens before the complacent gaze of authorities of all levels, who do nothing effective to eradicate it, and also of many Havanans, participants and accomplices in the practices.

Havana is ceasing to be the capital of all Cubans, as the propaganda of a well know local television station says, in order to become the capital of all the marginalized.  Do you doubt it?  Walk any day through Downtown Havana, El Cerro, Diez de Octubre and other townships, and even through Old Havana, through the non-tourist streets.  Like here, officially, the old year is not dismissed nor is the new one received, but only a new year of Revolution — with a little number and everything — and that in itself constitutes a social phenomenon linked to violence.  Won’t this be, for some, a popular and original way of paying homage to it?

Fernando Damaso

 Translated by mlk

January 1 2013

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