Democracy and Subversion on the Bus / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

Once more I made the journey from Havana to Santiago de Cuba in a glistening Yutong made-in-China bus, which doesn’t belong to us Cubans, but rather to those “embattled workers” of the capitalist world who come to spend the summer in Cuba. It was the Transgaviota busline, a tourist emporium that belongs to the Revolutionary Armed Forces in my country.

Since these buses should not return empty to the east of the island, they are made to pass through the bus stations to pick up those passengers who have spent several days in line to move between provinces. This time I must shamefully admit that Raul Castro’s government has made some changes, superficial (as the politicians say), skin deep (as ancient Cubanology states), but there have been changes. Now, instead of poisoning us with the latest reggaeton or the last concert tour of Alvaro Torres through Europe (forgive me, fans of the Salvadoran), they showed us a Celia Cruz concert where she never ceases missing her homeland. Some young people behind me were surprised and they were asking why not show it. When we left the first conejito on the National Highway, the driver surprised us with a selection of the hundred best plays in the Major Leagues, and we saw Ordóñez, José Ariel Contreras, Canseco and Alex Rodríguez.

I don’t like the lovey-dovey music of Marco Antonio Solis, but when those Hispanic crowds cheer him on, I take my hat off and step aside. In a tribute that makes up the stock of any respected bus driver, Marco Antonio is greeted by former President Bush and when they shook hands, I saw the face of a Lieutenant Colonel in the People’s Revolutionary Army who was in the row next to me — he looked like he was recovering from a heart attack.

Afterward, the trip became boring. They started playing a few programs which were made in the USA, called “Decisions” and “Case Closed”. Everyone on the bus would just stare at each other in awe as those Hispanics butchered the Spanish language — and yet, they had jobs and they were apparently happy. The trip ended with a “Case Closed” episode, a sort of personal life program. In this specific episode, a Dominican man was being accused of exploiting a semi-mentally challenged girl. Astonished, he was alleging that he had not done anything out of the ordinary, stating that, “in Cuba they give you a girl for 20 bucks!” The bus driver started lowering the volume, while some on board were staring at the Eastern landscapes. The afternoon was arriving and we barely even noticed when the guy behind the wheel put on a bank-robber movie. We were hungry and sleepy, worn out by 700 kilometers of bad roads and horrible food service. But for 12 hours, we lived outside the heat of the nation and of its television, something which the housewives and workers who will now become unemployed cry out for.

This is also my country.

Translated by Raul G.

December 20, 2010