You Do Not Know What Carnival Is! / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

From Tracey Eaton in Along the Malecon
“The bastard halted the nation’s progress indefinitely in 1968,” An old man, who seemed permanently under the influence of alcohol, repeated this over and over as he woke up on the pavement near the house. He spent a long night talking about it to whomever stopped to listen.

“It’s not like before,” the man said. “Carnival now is junk. It’s crazy to make comparisons. Look, even the drinks are bad.”

Someone asked him, “But you are coming from Carnival, right?”

“Yes!” the old man answered, adding that he was really drunk. But the fact that someone is under the influence does not mean he cannot differentiate between what is good and what is bad.

“Look at Carnival in the old days,” he went on. “It was all a riot of happiness. Beautiful floats, and parades. People wore such beautiful costumes. There was no nudity like now. Listen, son, I am not telling you anything. If I go on, you’ll only think I’m crazy. But everything I am telling you I experienced myself. No one told me about it. Then this man came and everything changed.”

“Who?” asked the youth.

“The skittish old lady,” the old man answered,  “The one who used to dress up in olive green like an okra.”

Everyone looked at him and laughed along with the old veteran. One of those who had been listening to him said, “Grandpa, that’s all history. Soon we’ll have Carnival in Havana again.”

“Son, you want to be the one who says it’s coming.” the old man replied as he got up from where he had been sitting.” “Listen, Carnival in Havana began in 1895, and it is a national treasure. You don’t know how famous it was throughout the world. It was a big party that everyone participated in. People came from all over, and there weren’t so many problems like there are today.”

The old man noted that the area set aside for this year’s Carnival was smaller than ever. It extended only from the Memorial for the Maine Battleship to Marina Street.

Just as the conversation was ending, one of the young men who had been listening said, “You don’t know what you’re missing. There are lots of hot girls, and the music they dance to, and ice cold beer, and lots of techno music.”

The old man only looked at him and smiled. “Boy,” he said in a loud voice, “Neither you nor any of you know what Carnival is.” Then he walked off down the street.

August 13 2012