Opening Statement



Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas in Cuba 10: Go in Peace?

Complete Story @ Here! 



December 25 1996

As the service draws to a close, the padre walks to the communion railing to address his flock. “Mati! Que pasa? What’s happening?”

Mati translates, breathing excitedly into my ear, “He says he knows everybody is worried because we cannot afford enough food to eat this Christmas, let alone a tree. He says we have something here though, that we cannot buy for pesos, for dollars. We have Christmas. This is mucho mas, more -Jesus Cristo is born....................He is inviting everybody to sing happy birthday to the baby Jesus!”

At first, it begins slowly. The congregation awkwardly shuffle their feet, peering nervously at the police by the church doors. One by one, they join in song, growing more confident, catching the spirit. In the simple voices, a newborn hope, for most of them a first -the spirit of Christmas in Santiago de Cuba. The padre reaches out. Together, everybody joins hands. Amigos. Amigas, Chicos. Chica. Muchachos. Muchachas. United in hope, in love, and in song.


 As the song finally comes to an end, as the last voice trails off, a few awkwardly begin to clap. Soon, everybody is clapping. They clap. They cheer. They stomp their feet. Louder and louder and louder, a thunderous roar, rolling off the floor, echoing from the churches arched ceilings, stone alcoves and vestibules. It echoes out the huge open window shutters, the wooden doors, to the street, to the park.

The police tap each other on the shoulder, spread out along the back church doors. Legs squared, tapping their billy clubs on their open palms! In Cuba, this is unheard of! Solidaridad? Comunidad? Strength? In a land where there is only one way.

The padre raises his hands, trying to silence the crowd, at first to no avail. Nods. Among the confusion, some of the locals lead the children rapidly out the church side door. Soon it's closed off too, the police now standing guard. Miguel, Matilde y I are tightly pressed up against the inside wall of the church, amongst the crush of the crowd. Clapping. Cheering. Still stomping their feet, “Miguel! Your nieces?”

“Si, I saw them go!”


“Por Favour! Por favour! Please!” The padre waves his hands in the air. Steps back up to the altar, catching everybody’s attention; “Pueden ...../Go in the peace of Christ.”

“Demos gracias a Dio..../ with the grace of God.”

As the choir sings “Noche Silencia”, he slowly begins the procession to the door. Row by row the congregation begin to follow. The policia step back onto the street, spreading out through Cespedes Parque. Paddy wagons at the ready. 

The tourists hurriedly head outside, trying to wave down the taxicabs. They pull up to the curb. The padre surrounded by the faithful, peer outside. “Quick! Rapido!” Matilde grabs my hand, “They won’t do anything right now. It is time to go!”

And so we head back out, into Cuba y la noche, the Santiago night.............



To be continued .......

SERIES: Part 1 @  Here! Part 2 @ Here!  Part 3 @ Here! Part 4 @ Here! Part 5 @ Here! Part 6 @ Here! Part 7 @ Here! Part 8 Here! Part 9 @ Here! Part 10 @ Here! Part 11 @ Here! Part 12 @ Here! Post Script @ Here!

1 comment:

David Chiarelli said...

Writer Notes: Christmas in Cuba 4: Cuba and the Night to here were originally all one chapter entitled "Order of the Mass" in the 1st Edition of my story when I published in in 1997.

In Cuba folks treat children very, very well. Maybe even much better than here in Canada or the US despite all our fine words to the contrary. I've often thought about how the children escaped. I'm pretty sure the police turned a blind eye.

Stories like this are great to write. All I had to do was be there to write it down afterwards. Of course, that was hardly what I was thinking at the time. It was pretty chilling. Even morbidly fascinating, like being in a movie perhaps. Time seemed to stop and the present became very sharp and real. Just standing there, living it, watching to see what happens next. Very much in and of the moment. Moving with the flow, nothing else can do. I can't stress how moving it was. Also strangely peaceful.

More later.

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