The Real Parade
I woke up on Sunday May 1st just like I do on any other day, I didn’t even remember the date. Not much of the morning had passed by when I could see, from the living room and through the blinds, two trucks carrying people pass by, although they weren’t too full.
Then, I remembered that it was the day of the traditional May 1st parade, but it seems that this version had been cut down a lot compared to previous years.
I also noticed that there weren’t so many trucks passing by, which transport locals so they can march in the municipality I live in.
Would there by less participants this year? It was a question that kept floating around in my mind. Noon came and my curiosity made me put the news on.
The images being broadcast showed a crowd of people marching in front of Revolution Square in Havana, and also along main avenues in every province. There was a healthy turnout and feelings of scorn and disgust began to sit in my stomach.
It was hard to digest all of this after the events in the past year. An unprecedented health crisis that exposed the disastrous situation of the health system and the loss of thousands of Cuban lives; the commotion to create change for a better country that climaxed with people around the country taking to the street on July 11th and 12th; the brutal repression that came in response after that sinister combat order that resulted in deaths, injuries and over a thousand arrests, mostly of young people, later being sentenced to 5-20+ years in prison.
All of this amidst ravaging inflation, the apartheid of US dollar stores and widespread shortages of basic essentials, amid blackouts and a chronic shortage of medicine.
How does any of this make sense?
But as those emotions sat with me and complaints appeared, I began to understand that all of this was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
I can imagine the regime’s concern of wanting to paint a picture of popular support, knowing that much of the population reject them.
They made sure to plan it very well, well ahead in advance. The parade only lasted for approximately half an hour, not taking any risks, or giving time for anything unexpected to happen.
Audios and videos had been leaked that proved pressure and threats in workplaces and academic environments to force Cubans to take part in this farce. A young friend told me that she had to march and take selfies because she had been asked by her university to provide evidence of her participation, otherwise her degree would be in danger.
This was the only way, with pressure and blackmail, and thanks to the expertise of propaganda experts that know how to take pictures from the most favorable angle to simulate huge crowds.
We also know that it was a day of arrests and harassment against pro-democracy activists.
The reality is that even when they’ve developed a whole campaign using resources, propaganda and repression, the number of people who abstained from the parade is significant.
I would dare to say that there were more Cubans on the street demanding the change Cuba needs on July 11th (let’s remember they were out there for many hours on the street), than those who took part in this May 1st theater show, out of obligation or apathy.
That’s because now, the regime only has the Army, police, a couple of privileged people and a handful of informers.
Yet at the same time, a much larger parade of Cubans has been taking place since 2021, from Nicaragua to the US border.
A spontaneous parade, albeit dangerous and painful. An exodus triggered by people’s desperation of living in a country where they have been robbed of their hope and future.
The figure is already somewhere around 80,000 and if this trend continues, over 200,000 Cubans will have tried to escape the island by the end of this year.
This is the real parade, not this May Day farce.