I have read the article in Bad Handwriting about the control of explosive substances in Cuba, and have remembered an anecdote from my teenage years that connects with much of what Regina Coyula is talking about.
When I was 18 I often went to the home of a friend--now his house is in Spain--and I spent the afternoons with him and his mother. It was a small family but with sad memories, they lived in one half of the house but the other half, the ground floor, had been confiscated in the first years of the Triumph of the Revolution.
My friend had just finished his Military Service and the atmosphere was festive, despite his scrawny body, evidence of years of malnutrition, militarization, and preparation for The War of The Whole People. We decided that to erase a slice of all the bad memories of green** we would do a general cleaning and toss out everything that belonged to the armed forces. We put our backs to the work, and in a few hours, two bags of uniforms, jugs, boxes and even papers were in the trash can on the corner.
The same night, while we were eating, an official from the National Revolutionary Police knocked on the door. After asking for our identity cards he interrogated us about our activities, harassed us a bit and had a coffee, confessing the object of his imperial visit: in the bags we'd tossed out they had found some boxes of bullets. My friend had to explain in detail how, after his firearms training, these bullets hadn't worked because they were duds and he put them into his backpack, where he forgot all about them. His mother had to sign an absurd paper, the contents of which I'm incapable of remembering, a kind of commitment to the security of the fatherland.
Before the man finally said his last in the interview-interrogation, we couldn't contain our curiosity: How had he found a little box of bullets in a bag inside a disgusting trash can on an obscure corner in Havana and how, on top of that, had he known that this bag had been tossed out by us? The cop replied with pride, "We have contacts everywhere, it was brought to us by one of our divers, be careful what you toss."
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.