I thought the war in Angola was one of the dark pages of our post-revolution history, but I was wrong. I believed that never again would we hear talk of such senseless carnage, whose origins and purposes we still don’t know, and that the government would save us from having to relive the pain of such a story.
My father was in Angola. He wasn’t injured, but caught malaria five times and although they cured the illness, they didn’t cure the alcoholism typical of those who went to war to die or kill. It seems that after a certain amount of blood and death you can no longer bear reality in the same way.
But it is not for my father that I write this post. It’s for my neighbor whose father died there. She was a child, her mother could not bear the pain and developed schizophrenia that might never have erupted. The girl, today already a woman, grew up in the care of a crazy woman who still does not let her into her own room because she says there are demons. The two, sick with nerves, survived the Special Period and the post-Ppecial. Jehovah’s Witnesses, they sought in faith what reality refused to give them: mercy.
They received an absurd pension from the Association of Combatants, which clearly didn’t stretch far enough for anything. Once some compassionate neighbors decided to do something so that someone from the government would take pity on them, because they were living in deplorable conditions. So they called a meeting. As if the stark reality were not enough, one woman said that the above mentioned pension should be taken from them, because they were often disagreeable with the neighbors and didn’t participate in the activities of the CDR. Fortunately, no one seconded the idea.
And now we have, adding shame to shame, a movie that’s been made called Kangamba, which is being sold as an epic. For the premier at the Chaplin movie theater they mobilized a large group of soldiers who, though the premier was at eight at night, were dressed in their uniforms… to see Kangamba is a task of the Revolution. The Ladas closed the parking areas around 23 and 12 so no one would be left with any doubt that our military not only doesn’t grieve for them, but they are proud that even today, after 20 years, amputated families don't recover from their dark and senseless losses.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.