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CUBA’S NEW PRESIDENT



ANOTHER DAY IN HAVANA

LIttle Jorge is twelve years old and I know he’s in middle school because he no longer wears the red kerchief with his uniform, only the white shirt and mustard colored pants that all boys who attend Cuba’s middle schools wear. How time flies and we don’t realize it! It’s been almost five years since Jorge would pass by our house almost everyday to ask my father to lend him a hammer, so he could work on a soapbox racer with his friends. All the neighborhood boys would spend the day going downhill and then drag it uphill. That contraption that had fun in its tires and only boys that age know how to squeeze that fun out. Today he is a teenager, with the coolest haircut and clothes. When he’s about to leave the house and his mother sees him checking himself out in the mirror, she asks, “Hey handsome, where are you going?”

He replies, “To the wall in the park to hang-out and listen to music.”

His mom Laura asks, “What time will you be back?”

“I don’t know, after midnight, around 2am.”

“Don’t be funny, be here by 12:30pm, you have to cut the grass tomorrow and clean-up the garage.”

“Aw, mom! I’m leaving!”

“Be here by 12:30pm.”

I can’t help but laugh when he rushes by me and doesn’t even see me. It’s just past 8pm and I’m running late. I rush out the door to catch the bus and decide on a taxi instead, I hate arriving late. In Cuba these shared public taxis are called almendron, which roughly translates to big almond, and it’s what Americans call shoe-box Chevys or bombs. But I recognize my shared taxi for what it really is, a 1951 Plymouth, not a 1950 Plymouth which looks almost the same. Right after I get in a bald man in his fifties slides in next to me, and right-away starts telling jokes. Before long everyone in the car is laughing. When he gets off before the rest of us at Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva Stadium the rest of us feel a small loss. I have fifteen minutes to get to my destination, and it’s only five minutes away. Great, I won’t be late! The radio in the car announces the most talked about political event in Cuba, we are going to have a new president.

Behind me one passenger says to another, “This new guy isn’t a Castro. What will happen now?” The other responds, “I don’t like talking about politics and the gist of it is things are either good or bad depending on how you look at it and from where you’re looking. Talk to me about music.”

I get off near the capitol in Old Havana and look at the majestic building and think how similar it is to the American capitol, but like the Plymouths, they look almost the same, but aren’t. But I don’t like talking about politics either!

I walk toward the malecon. This area of Havana has an extra dose of magic, everyone taking it easy as usual, and the thought returns.

This relaxation, this Cuban tranquility! I wouldn’t trade this peacefulness for anything. That is what we have here in Cuba in heavy doses all the time, and I still don’t like politics, and the truth is that the daily bread that is provided by the state rationing book is awful! But we have tranquility, and that’s that!

As I’m walking toward the malecon I pass two old ladies talking on one of the marble benches. A few steps away are two men playing chess, and past them four more playing dominoes. When I reach the malecon I see a few men fishing in the bay, and it’s 8:57pm, I made it on time!

I recognize a very familiar face at the malecon. It’s little Jorge, and he’s buying a flower from a street vendor. I am sure this is not the “wall at the park” his mother thought he would be hanging out at. The fishermen are still waiting for a bite. Some musicians with guitars and maracas pass by singing “Cuba, que linda es Cuba!” The 9pm Havana cannon blast goes off, as usual and right on time.

Tomorrow Cuba will have another president, younger, without memories of the battles in the Sierra Maestra, without the last name Castro, a different president!

The people of Cuba are uneasy. One left and a new one arrives, and it looks like this one will stay for a long time. He may suffocate us, make us sweat at public protests, but we can also go to the beach. The summer heat has already arrived in Cuba!

By Dina GomGar


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