They Didn’t Let the Rain “Rain on the Parade”

Estudiantes estadounidenses en la marcha del Primero de mayo en La Habana. (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)
American students marching in Havana’s May Day parade (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)

Right now in the City of Havana, especially in the neighborhoods, families and individuals with fewer economic possibilities are living through hard times. Downpours, normal enough in many capitals in the world, take on a different character here.

A few days ago many were clamoring for a few drops of water to ameliorate the unbearable heat. But when you live with the danger of the roof falling in on you, desires are confused and you end up preferring to sweat.

I know exactly what it means to sleep with fear. I spent my childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood sleeping in a bed-hammock with my grandmother and my first cousin. At the least downpour, the power went out and with the boards creaking, the house moved as if dancing with the wind.

Mima went down on her knees on the ground and began to pray, which made Carlitos and me more nervous. The gaps in the thatched roof let all the water through and we had to seek out each drip with a candle and put pots, jugs, cups and whatever receptacle we had to protect the little display cabinet, the Caribe television and the mattress.

The worst of it was that not only water fell from the roof. Scorpions, spiders, cockroaches and ants, feeling threatened by the thunder and rain, slipped out of the walls, rushed under the doors or fell on our chests as we were trying to get back to sleep.

At five in the morning, after a sleepless night, Mima would try to light some damp coconut shells to brew coffee over a wood fire, whose ashes we used on our toothbrushes many times instead of toothpaste, which was a luxury at one time…

How many grandmothers watch over their sleeping grandchildren while it rains, trying to hold up the walls with their faith

Under these conditions, Mima raised us two grandsons, having also raised as good people our parents, working like a mule, although ill, for 110 Cuban pesos (roughly US$5.50) a month. No one is going to convince me today that my grandmother is not a true heroine.

Today she continues to live under these conditions, after a lifetime devoted to family, work and the Revolution. After a year of efforts at every level at the Ministry of Agriculture to approve the paperwork that would allow us to start building a small room on the ground where she has been living for more than 60 years, through her own efforts, we carried on without authorization. And they say that delay…

I think of my grandmother when I hear the news of building collapses in Havana. How many like her will watch over their sleeping grandchildren while trying to hold up the walls with their faith.

While floods ravage Havana, those directly responsible for the misery that prevents so many families from repairing their houses; the creators of a system that slowly demolishes every trace of beauty, comfort and dignity, it doesn’t even occur to them to appear on TV lamenting the loss of three Cuban lives that are added to so many others. On the contrary, with their harangues, and the excitement of the celebration, they show their lack of respect for the pain of the families who are mourning today.

Those directly responsible for the misery don’t even think of even appearing on television to lament the loss of three Cuban lives

The official press barely mentions the names of the deceased, as if they were potatoes, at the end of the newscast. In all honesty, they dedicate more broadcast time to potatoes.

Nothing can tarnish the brilliance of the parade, one old woman more or less. What matters is that the world sees Cubans making fools of themselves disguised as a victory that breaks all the Guinness Records for the absurd.

The State announced that it was calling into service more than 3,200 buses for the parade, including 78 damaged by the rains that were repaired in one day for the occasion. It seems that not a single journalist in Cuban has investigated the costs of these events and of how much progress could be made in repairing homes and building infrastructure with those resources.

Surely those interested in organizing the May Day celebrations don’t have to worry about their families, their homes, or many other things missing from our national daily life that have already been forgotten as the decades pass.

I just hope that this time, the General didn’t ask for the earth to tremble.

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