14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 April 2020 — It was known, but on this Island the rumors are weeks ahead of the official announcements. Sometimes, many times, the so-called Radio Bemba [gossip] knows in advance what, in time, the national press will publish as news. Days ago it was clear that the parade on May 1st would not take place and, since mid-March, in state workplaces many voices cried out for its suspension.
So yesterday, when it was confirmed that “calabaza, calabaza, nadie pá la Plaza” [pumpkin, pumpkin, no one will go to the Plaza] due to the dangers of a mass gathering with the advance of Covid-19 in Cuba, few were surprised. Without a doubt, the cancellation is a wise decision in a country where more than 200 confirmed cases of the disease were announced this Wednesday, a figure that could skyrocket in the coming days when rapid tests will be administered.
The same people who, until recently, insisted that there would be a parade at any price, now are conveniently silent and repeat that “the Directorate of the country knows what it is doing,” as a neighbor I met in the hallway told me this morning. He is the same man who assured me a decade ago that a pound of pork would drop to 8 Cuban pesos (CUP) after some measures to promote state farms, but now it is at 50 CUP.
When I was a child I liked to go to the May Day parades with my parents. In addition to the hustle and bustle and general tumult, I loved some natural juices that were distributed for free to the participants and that, if memory serves me correctly, we called Jupuro. Once a year I had the chance to drink that nectar that came in a waxed cardboard box, all of which was a surprise to me, knowing nothing of tetrapacks and aluminum cans.
But later, the childhood enthusiasm passed and I realized that as a worker I was not going to be represented in a gathering that, instead of requests and demands, sings praises to power. When I graduated from university, for a long time I earned 198 CUP per month, less than $ 10, but I never saw a single poster in that “party of the proletariat” that demanded – in the Plaza of the Revolution – better salaries.
So I stopped going a long time ago and probably will only return to the parade on an International Workers’ Day when carrying a poster denouncing wage insecurity is not prohibited in Cuba and when the great boss, called the State, stops presenting itself as the savior of the working class. In reality, it earns huge capital gains, pays miserable wages, prohibits the right to strike, and condemns us to not even having a union to represent us.
Holding my proletarian diatribe within, today I worked on the flower boxes on my balcony. The potatoes are not yet germinating and they worry me, because all my hopes of having that tuber on my table in the coming weeks are pinned on my home garden. The plants that are beautiful are the flowers of my franchipani [plumeria rubra]. When I talk about the beauty of this shrub that stands on my balcony, most of my friends ask me “do you eat it?” and no, it is not eaten, but it is food for the soul, which is also essential in this time.
I haven’t felt well today. I don’t know if it’s the stress experienced in these “times of the coronavirus” or that the body starts to resent the tensions of waiting. Nothing worrying, just that these days any discomfort sets off the alarms and what was insignificant now becomes a suspicion.
But I’m fine. I write, I sow, I go out to buy food but, in addition, along with the diminished food that I get, I get stories: anecdotes, statements and even jokes that people want to share in extreme situations.
“This happens to us because we are alive, those over there no longer have this problem,” a flower vendor I found a few meters from the wall of Havana’s Colon Cemetery told me this morning. “Here we have coronaviruses, but in the ‘face-up neighborhood’ they would give anything to be on this side,” he emphasized with something that looked like a smile, but his facemask did not allow me to see it.