14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 April 2020 — The Covid-19 emergency in Cuba has its own sound or rather its “no sound.” If, before, from our house we heard the constant roar of the nearby Rancho Boyeros Avenue, now there is a rare stillness that fills everything. A “collateral benefit” of the drama we are experiencing with the emergence of the coronavirus in Cuba is the decrease in vehicle traffic on the streets.
Occasionally, with increasing frequency, that calm is broken by sirens, as happened this morning. We were sitting around the table and heard the haunting sound. “If before it was once or twice a day, now it’s every hour,” said our son. We continued sipping our coffee, but the idea that in a vehicle traveling at full speed, running all the lights without stopping, there might be someone whose life was in danger, we choked on breakfast.
When I was a little girl and official television broadcast serials where Cuban intelligence agents infiltrated the exile, sirens abounded in scenes representing the world on the other side of the Florida Straits. There were almost always older men, surrounded by young, scantily clad women, a glass of whiskey in hand, perhaps a swimming pool, and the background noise of an ambulance, fire truck, or police patrol.
That was such a used dramatic image, that in my childish mind, outside of Cuba people were always one step away from being carried away on a stretcher, seeing their house burn down or being arrested. A small sonic detail became effective ideological propaganda to tell us that it was better to be inside the Island, safeguarded by that authoritarian father who is Castroism.
Maybe that’s why, now, when I hear sirens again and again, I have a feeling that reality is collapsing around me. If we add to this that the city is quieter than usual, the alarms are more prominent and seem even more dramatic. In a country where, as of today, official figures count 269 positive cases for Covid-19 and six in critical condition, there are reasons to be concerned.
This Friday I did not have to leave home. I made some croquettes, I stretched the rice I got yesterday and some carrots, also bought on Thursday in a nearby market, saved me and I could make a very tasty sauce. The canine and feline herd had to settle for a “vegetarian” proposal and one of the onions I planted a few days ago began to sprout. Life goes on, even though the city is sunk in lethargy.
The paralysis of transportation, the closure of many industries and some of the services, has meant that this morning we woke up with a clear and beautiful sky… at least in apart of the Cuban capital. Towards the south, the airport area and Santiago de las Vegas, it looked blue and clear, but in the direction of Central Havana, Old Havana and the Bay a cloud of smoke covered the city.
The Ñico López refinery continues to spread a dark stain over the neighborhoods as a result of the processing of hydrocarbons. In a territory where other industries are idled, that language of contamination is much more noticeable. That and the sound of sirens.
I continued planting this afternoon, attentive to the noises coming from the balcony. Today, I added some coriander seeds and also transplanted some positions of aloe vera, known in Cuba as sábila, which is the species of which we have the most specimens on this 14th floor balcony. The plants will germinate, grow and we will harvest them with that ” musical band,” with the background sound of anguish.