Practical woman that I am, I thought I would take advantage of my trip to Santa Clara to buy, along the highway, products which, in the capital, are hard to get or very expensive. From when I was little I remember the peasants by the road side selling what they themselves had planted and grown, trading their wares directly with travelers.
The lack of vendors on foot for miles and miles, surprised me, as I know these farmers have a very precarious economy, and I had to believe that the police dedicate themselves to punishing those who sell what they grow with their own hands. From their wooden houses, with their government-registered cows, they could earn enough from the sale of a few pounds of cheese to feed their families for some days.
There are still some, maybe fewer than twenty, along the miles that separate Havana and Santa Clara. Fearful, when a car stops they approach with caution, because the National Revolutionary Police hunts them by posing as customers.
The boy who finally sold me some cheese couldn’t have been more than 25. I asked him what happens when the police catch them: he said they run as fast as they can, trying to save at least some of the goods, while the police chase them back into the woods.
“They chase you into the woods?”
It’s hard to take seriously the ridiculous image of a uniformed officer knocking a peasant down into the grass to seize twenty bananas. As the poor boy hadn’t come to hear a lecture from me, I simply paid him and left, but the idea was making my head spin. Are there not, according to Raul Castro, a million unproductive people in Cuba earning salaries? Why don’t they start by getting rid of the jobs of these predators on the family economy and allow the farmers to sell their products wherever they want?
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.