Last year Cuban newspapers strongly criticized the rebirth of the “consumerist” tradition of the Three Wise Men. They describe the crowds that, for days, filled the toy stores with convertible pesos and they attacked the social differences that this practice generates. This January the authorities have found the solution to avoiding “excessive spending” and the display of consumerism: do not offer for sale any new or interesting toys. Nonetheless, parents haven’t stopped buying, and they have even snapped up the little water pistols and the swords made in China.
For me, born in the seventies, the Three Wise Men came in a different way. They came in July and they were not named Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, rather for us were they were the three different categories of toys to buy on the rationed market: basic, non basic and additional. My mother use to take us to the line in the early morning of the day before. The wait was a long process of frustration, watching them run out of the nicest dolls, until, after finally making it to the counter, we had to settle for a carpenter set or a broom and a plastic duster. However, in my family we continued calling it “The Day of the Three Wise Men” and evoking it weeks later, I recalled the cart, remembered the camels and guessed the crowns.
Traditions have a way of hiding themselves when they are banned. They become a myth that parents transmit to their children in soft voices. Nothing is as absurd as wanting to eradicate that which forms part of the fantasy collection of a society. That’s why today, twenty years after the last toy that was assigned to me by the ration book, I have given myself a chocolate. It still comes with the smell of the desert, a crib and a baby.