A different end of year / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Pinar del Rio returned to the custom of burning a doll symbolizing the old year  (Juan Carlos Fernández)
Pinar del Rio returned to the custom of burning a doll symbolizing the old year (Juan Carlos Fernández)

Despite all that has to change, Pinar del Rio greets the year with something new: hope

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 2 January 2015 – The New Year was welcomed in the city of Pinar del Río very differently from before. For a long time it seems that we experienced more of a wake then a celebration. Wallets were thin, tempers heated, social violence was almost daily news. The predominant feeling was one of suffocation and a desire of many in Pinar del Rio to go to any other country, provided they could leave this quagmire called Cuba.

However, something changed this year. There is no noticeable improvement in the basic market basket, nor do we enjoy fundamental freedoms. The economy is touching bottom, the housing situation is terrible, and corruption undermines all levels of society. And yet, what motivated the sudden happiness and the signs of hope at this year end in a people who have almost nothing to cling to?

Many, among whom I count myself, point to December 17 as a turning point to begin the countdown to the opening of spaces for progress and well-being. It is not a magic wand but, undoubtedly, the news has cheered and breathed new hope into the lives of a great number of Cubans.

The reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States has caused the few vehicles circulating on the streets of our city to blow their horns for the celebrations of December 31. It has been many years since the sirens of the Pinar del Rio Fire Department have been sounded with such emphasis on January 1. Even the popular tradition of burning dolls – made from cloth and straw and symbolizing the old year – was readopted on a massive scale. To the desires for prosperity, peace, tranquility and good health are added the omens of development for businesses and investments.

The passing of the old year and the welcoming of the new have taken on a great intensity in the city, along with the joy of seeing people feel like things will change for the better.

We don’t know whether this will be realized with more or less speed but, although we are not satisfied, we should be happy that this year end has been the one in which the countdown has begun.