HAVANA, Cuba, January 6, 2014 / www.cubanet.org – Twelve midnight rang on 31 December, and 2013 ended. Havana said good-bye with its streets half-empty streets in Vedado and the speakers all reggaeton in the indigent heart of Buenavista. Apparently almost no one paid attention to the televised speech, where the government tried to wish Cubans a happy new year.
Nor were cheers for the Revolution heard, nor for Raul, and much less for Fidel. No one responded much to the fireworks on the Malecon, prohibited by law, but traditional, fired into the air.
According to what I was told by friends walking along by the exclusive clubs in the Playa area: “The music stopped, but so that everyone could join the chorus in the last ten seconds of the year. At 12, people burst into applause, hugged, and then went on dancing.
Throughout the night, a steady stream of small explosions, seemed like the shots of a 22 caliber..dominated the streets of Buenavista. Some “bomblets,” invented by guys who know how. It was hard and loud. As if they knew what the firing squads sounded like five decades ago…
The tradition of throwing buckets of water into the street was repeated. People don’t lost hope that with the old year the evil will go. For others, the new year smells of new deception. The truth is in the street and not in the meetings of the Council of State: “Any reason is good enough for us to grab a bottle of rum or some beers. Why beat your head against the wall of what can’t be fixed?” So a group of young people, halfway to sloshed, answered me on the first day of 2014. One of them added, “For me, they closed the 3D cinema with which I was earning some pesos, I sold the plasma TV and the chairs, luckily I just stay in Cuba.”
“My mother gave me the money for the business from France but she warned me. That these people are cheaters, they say one thing today and something else tomorrow. She was always clear. It’s not worth investing a penny in this country, not even a penny, and much less a drop of your time. In the end, they’ll cheat you.”
I comment to them that it’s hard to find someone under forty who doesn’t want to emigrate. “The only people who count here are all those old people who are on Raul’s side in power.” “Aside from them, no one has the right to prosper and have a decent life.”
Someone else in the group said, “When I studied at Lenin Vocational, I learned where “Papa’s kids” went at the end of the year: Cancun Mexico, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. And naturally they let you go, because they know that the comedy of their grandparents is over and they live convinced that they’re going to inherit the country.”
“I asked Ochun for a Yuma (foreign) girl and it seems that she heard me, I’m “trabajando el paño” — he tells me semi-confidentially, one of those hustles that so abound here. He and another guy have hooked two German girls who are enchanted with the grace of the “Cubaniches.” I ask him about the future and what he wants for the new year: “I can sum it up for you in one sentence,” he answers, “that this cute blonde gets me a visa and guarantees my ticket with no return. That my old age doesn’t find me in this country.”
The wall of the Malecon is a historical melting pot of parties and lamentations. Walking around I met a group with a small speaker, taking and drinking. I asked them what they expect from the new-born 2014. “Nothing new, we have to continue to struggle with what there is,” one of them told me. “The return of the Five Heroes!” another jokes, and they all busted out laughing.
At that moment Cuba’s top hit came on, in the voice of the Puerto Rican Marc Anthony: “I gonna live, I’m gonna enjoy, live life…” and everyone sang along like a hymn. Perhaps this song sums up, despite everything, what a good part of Cubans expect from the new year.
Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro