I read a few days ago, in the newspaper Granma, that the Cuban population is decreasing and that there were 4,300 fewer inhabitants in 2006 compared to the previous year. The news does not surprise me because I had already noted that twenty students per class in primary schools was due more to the demographic reality than to the implementation of a new teaching method.
However, among the male and female friends of my generation there is a real boom in pregnancies and births. These are the children who were postponed for reasons related to living space, emigration or the economic situation, but that their parents, already in their thirties, feel compelled to have now.
My friends imagined the arrival of their babies differently. They dreamed of solving their housing problems before bringing children into their lives. Some saw themselves as the parents of children who would ride on toboggans and speak two languages; while others imagined living in their own country with salaries that would allow them to afford disposable diapers, baby bottles, and gifts from the Three Kings.
Life usually makes a mockery of our expectations, so here are my women friends, on the verge of giving birth or already rocking their children, while the fathers are suffocating trying to divide the little space where they live in the home of the grandparents, making calculations about what they can’t afford on their meager wages, and still dreaming that there will be space on the toboggan, now that there is one more to take.
I live equidistant from two agricultural markets, in one of which the sellers are farmers, members of a cooperative or their respective intermediaries, and the other of which is run by the Youth Labor Army (EJT). In the first there is nearly every fruit, vegetable, other food and even pork. The State (EJT) market rarely has more than sweet potatoes, peppers, onions and green papayas, and when there is some kind of meat the lines are longer. But the fundamental difference between these two markets is not variety but price, so much so that my neighbors call the market run by farmers “the market of the rich” and the market run by the EJT the market of the “poor.”
The truth is that to serve a fairly balanced meal you have to go to both. First you must inspect the stands full of the products that abound in the large EJT market, and then consult the whims and capricious quality of the polished tomatoes in the market of the “peasant farmers.”
Sometimes, overcome by desire and nostalgia, I buy a pineapple in the “market of the rich.” But I take care to bring a cloth bag to hide this queen of the fruits, this obscene symbol of status, from the jealous glances of others.
In my 6th grade geography book there was a photograph showing the environmental pollution in capitalist countries. I don’t remember if it was of London or Berlin, I only know that this image resembles it.
In these days the country is in the midst of baseball fever sparked by the final games of the national playoff series. The Industriales wear blue while red is the color of the team from Santiago de Cuba. On many balconies, doors or walls one can read posters with “Industriales Champions” or “Santiago, Go Santiago!” The Party militants have been advised that during the games in the huge Latinoamericano stadium they must avoid contemptuously shouting the word “Palestinians” to refer to the players from the eastern team. Meanwhile, the police deployment around the stadium is comparable only to that during the Summit of Non-aligned Nations last September.
Even for me, who doesn’t share the passion for baseball, I watch the games on TV and jump when the industrial lions score. However, I don’t fail to note that during these days of baseball that plunge us into an unreal torpor, even the appearance of the tolerated posters is a parenthesis, a temporary permission, that we may not use for other themes. I can imagine what would happen if, after the final, I hung from my balcony a small paper that said: “Yes to ethanol,” or “Internet for all.”