Tarará / Yoani Sánchez

Two weeks into the Tarará Pioneers camp and my sister and I would return home talking about our dips in the ocean. But this time it would be different, because we would be part of an activity to show someone very important that this area that was once private houses was now a place for the enjoyment of the workers’ children. On the lawn beside the stream we clasped hands and, dressed in the clothes typical of each region, made five large circles representing the continents. It fell to me to be Lithuanian.

My mother rented the costumes from a store in Galiano Street — all that remains of it now is a sewer pit draining onto the sidewalk. I had to wear a long-sleeved blouse with a colorfully embroidered thick cloth vest over it, plus a decorated headband and gaiters over my shoes. The outfit was totally inappropriate for the blistering sun of July 1984, but I stood it for several days out of curiosity over who the distinguished visitor would be. Nearby, some of my fellow classmates were dying of the heat, stuffed into multi-colored Mongolian pomp. The leader was blowing a whistle while we had to turn this way and that on the cut grass, waiting for those distinguished eyes that would watch us spin.

On the day planned for our live world dance performance, I discovered that someone in the hostel had stolen one of my gaiters, and my sister was showing the first signs of heat stroke. We reluctantly danced our rounds, while the rumor flew that the Maximum Leader’s brother would show up at any moment. A convoy of fast cars — three green Alfa Romeos — crossed the bridge over the Tarará River. A minute later we were told we could abandon our formation; the eminent visitor was already gone. Raul Castro, as in the Spanish film Welcome Mr. Marshall, had left us all dressed up, choreography rehearsed.

October 17, 2010