By Yoani Sanchez for El Pais newspaper, 25 July 2008
It is time to escape, warns Manuel, who this year is planning his fifth attempt to reach the coast of Florida. He asks his friends if they want to join him in the polyurethane boat he’s building on the shores of Mariel, but most touch wood just thinking about sharks. Others contribute money for the GPS, cans of meat and oral rehydration salts. They want to leave before the beginning of August, a month that in Cuba carries the worst adjectives. In summer the yearning to emigrate multiplies, as if the temperature brings out the balsero [rafter] in all of us. People keep watch over the sea, that piece of blue that surrounds and isolates us, while unscrupulous human traffickers come in speedboats to pick up groups of furtive emigrants. These same hormones of escape provoked, fourteen years ago this August, a social outbreak, remembered as the Maleconazo, along the seafront of the city of Havana. We began this month exhausted from the heat that started in early March and the season of mangos and avocados fails to appease us. This is a time of skyrocketing prices for many products in the farmers markets, of long lines to get fans repaired or the endless waiting to take the bus to the beach. The school holidays, with children demanding more food and frequent trips, mean that we find ourselves in September with empty pockets.
August is definitely the month of irritability and suffocation. So Manuel prefers not to stay even one day beyond July. He senses that if he does not throw himself into the sea the rage could carry him to the streets, breaking windows with stones, as already happened fourteen years ago.
Translated from the original Spanish.