Cuba 2011: Suckling Pig, Babalaos and Concerns / Iván García

In these last days, the smell of roast pig wafted through the streets of good houses in Vedado and Miramar or in the shacks of marginal neighborhoods like Fanguito or Pogolotti.The penetrating aroma of pork also made mouths water in neighborhoods full of the unemployed, street kids, and prostitutes in Atarés and Cayo Hueso.

There were no big parties nor did the rum flow until dawn. The economic situation is not one for shooting off rockets. Ordinary people preferred sobriety. Most of them celebrated the date with their families. And with music, of course. Timba and reggaeton rang out in doorways and on balconies until the first light of day.

The government of General Raúl Castro is planning cuts, and therefore the public festivities took place in specific sites. Without any waste, so that ordinary people could await the arrival of the 52nd anniversary of the revolution as best they know how to do, moving their hips and drinking beer from a keg.

It’s a revolution that has lost steam. His Marxist discourse no longer dazzles. The logical erosion of five authoritarian decades in power has resulted in a economy that is adrift and a chaotic infrastructure, with poor, gray cities.

In the brand new year in Havana almost nothing works. Urban transport and services are grim. Even the black market falters before the rigorous controls applied by the government to certain businesses, making the thefts and diversions that used to fuel illegal commerce difficult.

The best thing has been the weather, without unbearable heat or chilling cold. Leisure and cultural life are limited and of poor quality. And very expensive, if you want to shake your body in the clubs and fashionable discos.

While the people said goodbye to 2010, wondering how the regime will save its skin, on January 1, the official babalaos divulged their predictions for 2011. According to their prophecies, known as the Letter of the Year, in 2011 Ogun, the god of metals in the Yoruba religion, will govern. And he will be accompanied by Yemaya, the orisha mistress of the sea.

Among more than twenty recommendations are calls for respect for women, maintaining the family unit, caring for children, and avoiding situations that provoke fights that could have fatal consequences.

Although in recent times the number of admitted believers in different religions has increased, so has the number of non-believers. Citizens who don’t believe in the predictions of santeros nor in the proposals made by governments.

It’s logical. After 52 years of failure in the economic realm, people have difficulty assimilating the rhetoric of “Now, yes, we are going in the right direction.” That dog has already bitten several times.

Raul Castro has entered a dark tunnel where there is no going back. If there is no exit, somehow he will have to turn on a light to try to find it. Two things can happen. Either reforms will be their own trap, or they will work fairly well and improve the quality of life.

Not a few Cubans, while they prepared the roast pig, went round and round over the economic puzzle. Everyone is concerned there is no alternative. It’s like playing Russian roulette. For Olegario, 72 years old and retired, what worries him most is that it fulfills one of the maxims of the babalaos: “What goes around comes around.”

Illustration: Orishas of the Yoruba religion

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 7 2011