Fear, Dry Law and Funerals / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 28 November 2016 — The always busy corner of
Infanta and Carlos III was a desolate wasteland Sunday. Since the death
of Fidel Castro was announced, Havanans have gathered at home. The
official media say that it is from pain, but fear is the protagonist of
days in which the sale of alcoholic beverages has been prohibited and
the biggest funerals in contemporary Cuba are arranged.
Foreign journalists are arriving in the country by the hundreds and are
seen in the streets trying to interview every passerby. Many pedestrians
look down and refuse to give interviews. When the reporters finally
manage to get some statements, they are only from those who agree with
the official discourse. Inside people’s homes everything is different.
“Luckily we had a bottle of rum left over from a party,” says Chicho, a
retired teacher who has waited decades for this moment. “It is not that
we’re celebrating the death of a human being, because this man made us
all believe that he was not one… that he was above life and death,” he
Chicho has a nine-year-old granddaughter who will go to school early
this Monday, although there are doubts about how the week will go in
schools and workplaces, in the midst of the national mourning that has
been decreed for nine days. “I’m sure that they aren’t going to teach
classes, there is going to be one event and another until the day the
ashes reach the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery,” says the grandfather.
For Mileidis, a resident of Havana’s Regla neighborhood, there is
another concern. “My brother is a son of Changó,” (an orisha of the
Afro-Cuban religion who is the equivalent of Saint Barbara). The
celebration of the saint is held every December 4, the same day the
national mourning concludes. “I don’t know how we are going to get the
brandy and rum,” the young woman worries.
The festivities on the eve of Saint Barbara are very popular on the
island, fueled by drumbeats, Yoruba songs and a great deal of alcohol.
With the sale of alcohol prohibited, many Santería rights are in danger
of collapse. Distilled alcohol has doubled in price in barely three days
of the “dry law.”
A well-known bar on Reina Street is deserted and the drinks list has
been put away. Nearby, in El Curita park, three regulars of the place
get together on a corner and pass a plastic container that looks like it
contains cola. In reality it is distilled alcohol, better known as
“train sparks” for the effects it occasions in the stomach when ingested.
Police patrol cars and uniformed officers approach, and the three men
hide the bottle. “This is my thing, I can’t live without it,” says one
of the men, justifying his transgression. “What fault is it of mine that
He can no longer take a drink?” he reflects, slurring his words.
Posters with the face of Fidel Castro are everywhere. Since the
celebration of his 90th birthday in August, the tone of the personality
cult has noticeably risen, such that Cubans seem to be used to Fidelmania.
“Will they change the bust of José Martí in the schools for one of
Fidel?” a seven-year-old girl asks her mother. In the street, Havana
residents speculate about the anticipated tributes to Castro and expect
the establishment of an official order in his honor, his face on a
banknote, a multi-story iron relief with his silhouette in the Plaza of
the Revolution — like the ones for Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos –
some street with his name, and a museum in his memory in the heart of
The most daring even predict a change in the only political organization
allowed in the country. “It’s a good moment to shake off the communist
label,” an official academic who asked for anonymity told this
newspaper. “It’s possible that at the next plenary session of the Cuban
Communist Party or at an extraordinary congress they will re-baptize it
the Fidelista Party.
In tune with popular predictions, the illegal lottery, known as la
bolita, has seen an increase in bets on the numbers that mean ‘police,’
‘great death,’ and ‘horse,’ the later for Fidel Castro’s nickname, “El
Source: Fear, Dry Law and Funerals / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata –
Translating Cuba –