The Silence of the Cauldrons / Rebeca Monzo

Once again they are celebrating another boring anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) on my planet. As time goes on, fewer and fewer people lend their efforts to this farce.

As I was visiting a friend yesterday afternoon in Vedado, I was able to observe in the formal garden of her building–which still retains the architectural beauty it had in days past–four neighbors gathered around a filthy and dented cauldron, poking the logs of a fire that the wind was determined to put out. They were speaking in loud voices, telling jokes in bad taste, clad only in shorts and exposing their bare torsos. It was an image that might well have been found in an engraving from an old history book about primitive civilizations.

These men were accompanied by three cute little dogs, one of whom had a woman’s name. I made a comment about this to a lady in the elevator with me. Incensed, she told me it was not just a dog’s name, but a bad joke that showed a lack of disrespect for a neighbor in the building, who had the same name. To me this was yet another indication of the class of people to be found making the traditional caldosa* for this event. During my entire trip home to Nuevo Vedado it was the only preparation of this sort I was able to observe. It must have been because it was still early.

Something else I noticed was that the smells coming from the cauldron were neither pleasant nor unpleasant in spite of the fact that something was obviously boiling in it. I then realized that almost no one from the CDR – at least not on my block – went door-to-door requesting food donations for the celebration’s communal pot any more as they often did some years ago. Certainly, food is not only scarce but the prices are excessively high and almost no one is in a position to give it away. Besides, there are ever fewer people attending these events since in their own homes many have to confront on a daily basis what could be described as – to paraphrase the title from an old film – the silence of the cauldrons.

Translator’s note: Caldosa is traditionally a thick broth or stew.After the Cuban revolution cooking it became a communal event in which neighbors brought whatever ingredients they had at hand. Some say this came about because of food scarcity; others believe that the change had more to do with the collective emphasis of socialism. (Source:

September 28 2012