The surrealism of life in Cuba
An interesting article in The Australian that documents the surrealism that is life in Cuba:
Letters from Cuba
by: PICO IYER
WE had met barely five minutes before, and already, insofar as I could tell, the bright-eyed young woman with whom I was walking through the leafy streets of Vedado in Havana was proposing marriage. This had nothing to do with me, I knew; I'd received several other proposals - propositions for life, in effect - already that week.
Soon (I'd agreed to take this friend of a friend to a dollar store, technically open only to foreigners) this highly eligible woman was telling me how she was going to set sail the next week for Miami; some friends of hers were about to oust Fidel - "You know the CIA?" - and things were going to be different, very different, soon. But I shouldn't tell a soul. I couldn't, in any case, because a man was approaching us now - we were near the Malecon - and asking if I wanted to buy a turtle.
Fiction was impossible in revolutionary Cuba, I quickly came to feel; even more than in Haiti, or India, or other tumultuous places of everyday chaos that I knew. So much was happening, so loudly, at every minute, both on the streets and in the overheated minds all around, that it stretched credulity in every direction. In part, this was a register of frustration, of course; the island had been condemned to 30 years at that point of strutting in place. In part, it was a function of need. People had to have dramas, rumours and fantasies because they were not allowed much in the way of real lives.
But as much as anything, it was a reflection of a passionate, theatrical, over-the-top culture where strangers on every side were sobbing and shouting and laughing in the streets, at all hours of the day and night, with operatic virtuosity, while also reminding me, under their breath, that my best friend here was probably an informer, and I should be careful of Lourdes, who would report even her sister to the neighbourhood committee, and the proposal I'd just received had come from someone whose motives could not entirely be trusted.
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