Wet and Late / Yoani Sánchez

It’s raining in Havana, a persistent drizzle that since morning has prevented us from seeing the sun. It if weren’t for the mud in the streets and the danger of buildings collapsing, I would say this city never looks more beautiful than when it is wet. Everything moves slowly, pauses, every piece of grass or dirt leaves an odor that otherwise seems extinct in this great city. On the building facades, first veins emerge and then they become completely soaked with this natural paint… one hundred percent water, which costs nothing. The puddles double the joke with their reflections of the balconies, the doors and rounded arches of certain entryways. Even the rough concrete buildings in the area where I live gain charm when wet, perhaps because the rain returns them to the cold gray climates where they were designed by Eastern European architects.

It’s June, summer, on an Island with a hot tropical climate where hurricanes and precipitation are an inherent part of our lives. And yet the clumsiness with which we navigate rainy days is notable. As if we were not accustomed to these downpours. Four drops of rain fall from the heavens and school attendance plummets, bureaucratic procedures collapse because the functionary in charge stayed home due to the cloudburst. Transport behaves even worse than usual, and even the shops work at half speed at a simple shower. The characteristic lack of punctuality in the country worsens and opening and closing times take on a randomness, under the simple argument that “it’s raining.” It all gives the impression that we are fragile lumps of sugar about to dissolve at the slightest drop.

On the other hand, clothing and artifacts to protect ourselves from the rain are scarce and prices are high. To buy an umbrella in this city right now is a difficult and expensive undertaking, consuming from a third to a half of the average monthly salary. In the months with the greatest precipitation there is no increase in the imports or production of capes and raincoats, nor in other waterproof clothing. But most alarming are not the problems of purchasing umbrellas or ending up wet. The worst is that from the time we are small we grow up believing that a rainfall is reason enough to be late, absent, or to simply cancel the whole day. We grow up to be adults who deal with the rain like something alien, incomprehensible, for which we are not prepared.

20 June 2012