The Havana Malecón* is getting ready for Carnival. On the Piragua,* tents have been set up for restaurants serving international food and colorful kiosks rise throughout the area. One can already see, on the pavements and in the portals, the metal structures used for reviewing stands, while groups practice the choreography they will show off beginning on Friday.
Because of the successive changes in dates that our popular celebrations have been subject to, we are a people who are never sure when carnivals start. The announcements that they are about to begin surprise us, and we aren’t even all that frustrated when we hear they have been suspended. I remember the summer of 2006, when we were left with the painted floats, having been told that Havana’s conga drums didn’t fit with the somber conditions surrounding the illness of Fidel Castro.
Luckily, this year the bands might play. We continue living in a schizophrenic carnival: most of the products are sold for convertible pesos, with a small portion of the pleasures set aside for those who only have Cuban pesos.* Due to violence and poverty, our revelries have ceased to be a place for the whole family. But even so, it is a time to shrug off the slogans, the shortages and the frustrated expectations. Dancing is a magnificent way of forgetting.
And so we will have a festival along the same perimeter of the coast where, fourteen years ago, Habaneros demonstrated their discontent in a social uprising.* We will drink, all along the wall that has felt the weight of makeshift rafts heading north. We will enjoy salsa and reggaeton, on the same ocean front avenue that hasn’t seen ‘official’ demonstrators chanting slogans and waving little flags in months. To this Malecón, that has witnessed our shouts, our departures and our feigned sentiments, we will go, for a few days, to amuse ourselves.
Malecón: The seawall and the street along it that circle Havana.
Piragua: An area on the Malecón between the Hotel Nacional and the U.S. Interests Section where concerts and dances are held.
“Social uprising”: See the entry, “Habeas data,” 12 February 2008. For more information readers may search on “Maleconazo” for information about this event, which occured on 5 August 1994.