Opening Statement



Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas in Cuba 3: Cuba + the Night!

Complete Story @ Here!


"Dos patria tengo yo: Cuba y la noche/ 
Two fatherlands have I: Cuba and the night." 
*Jose Marti*[1]


December 24 1996

Matilde and I step outside the house into the pitch black night. Cuba y la noche. Its just before midnight. The long narrow street is silent, for most Cubans tomorrow is just another workday. We stand under the dull street lamp waiting for Miguel. Mati is resplendent in her flowery cotton dress, and white pumps. Her hair pulled back into a bushy pony tail. The usual assortment of bangles; a ring for every finger, the bracelets. I chuckle. Very Cubana -except for the rosary around her neck. “Mati, that’s to hold and pray."


“No. No. I saw Madonna's video.”

Hmmmm. I’m wrong. It’s very Cubana too. I lean over, kissing her on the cheek, “Si Querida, you look very beautiful but.....

“Ahhh. Here you are!”, Miguel greets us from the doorway. “My mother and father say to be careful. Nowadays many desperate banditos prowl the streets at night!" 

Behind him, Josef y Luisa nod and wave good-bye, securely bolting the tall wooden door with a heavy steel bar. Miguel lights a cigarette, cupping the match in his hand. Steps out onto the street in his freshly pressed pair of black slacks, a clean white shirt. Twenty five years old, a computer technician at the telephone exchange, he is doing well for a young man his age in Cuba these days. I am somewhat surprised he is coming with us. The religious were not allowed into the parti until very recently. [2] Perhaps it is still not wise for him to be seen at the church? “Miguel! I thought you were a Communista?”



“Si.” He smiles. Thoughtfully he takes a drag on his smoke, tossing the burnt match in the gutter, “We all are."

“Except for Josef.”, Matilde notes. She taps at her watch, to remind us its almost midnight.


“Yes. Well. I have less trouble this way...”

“But, maybe tonight will create a problem for you?”

“No se/ I don’t know. I will make sure the children are okay. Come. They are already at the cathedral. We’re going to be late.”



Silently we walk down Calle San Basilio. Each of us alone with our thoughts. I peer at the darkened lane ways. Mindful not to say much, draw any attention. Mati quietly takes my hand. Together we navigate the cobblestones, careful not to trip on the forgotten old weathered streetcar tracks, now long fallen into disuse. Passing the rows of crumbling Spanish houses, the stars above peaking out between the ornate stone roof gilding. Past the huge wooden doorways. The shuttered windows. The rusted wrought iron grates. The high doorway portals. The cracked masonry and weathered walls. A sleeping city in ruins.

Quietly we enter the city square. Cespedes Park. I sigh. Wipe the sweat from my brow. The heat of the night. Thirty degrees C. Very typical Santiago de Cuba. A mad mix of the holy, the profane? I nervously chuckle to myself. [3] [4]

Happy party sounds spill out from the corner terrace of the Casagrande Hotel. From down a side street beside the church a mad salsa beat pours out from a courtyard discotheque. Before us looms the municipal government building blanketed in the dark. 



Look! Police lean against its flat forbidding front. Watching the park where more wait, in silence, huddled, resting on the park benches under the palm trees and ferns. Eyeing the churchgoers streaming into the cathedral. The peel of church bells ring from the twin ornate steeple towers. 

It’s midnight! I gaze up at the lone crosses atop the copper coloured, cone shaped cathedral tower roofs. [5] In between, a stone angel, weathered, horn in hand, looks out to the park. Heralding the days of future past? Or a new beginning? Pointing at the sky above, I gasp in surprise, “Look Mati, a shooting star!"

“No. No.” She winks at me. “A spy satellite. The Americanos must be watching too.”

Hmmmm. But there’s no time to figure it out now. We join the crowd heading towards the cathedral. Under a homemade fresco of the nativity prominently displayed above the arched doorways along the pillared entrance way. Inside we go.The service is about to begin.........



To be continued......

Footnotes

[1] Poemas de Jose Marti: Dos Patrias 1:1

[2] Rapprochement between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church occurred 2 years later during January 1998 with Pope John Paul 2's trip to Cuba. He visited Santiago de Cuba. Workers were given time off work to attend the papal events. See @ Report

[3] "Santiago de Cuba: Faded Glory, Lost in Time" @ Blog

[4] A current Google Map and photo panorama with stills is @ Here!

[5] Catedral de Senora de la Asuncion/ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption



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...

Hello Readers!

Some writers notes:

Matilde's character might seem trite, girly and often ignored or even subjugated within her interactions and discussions with the male characters in my story. I have struggled with excluding the machismo inherent in some of the male behaviour and attitudes including perhaps my own and decided not to. I am trusting that most of my readers are not that superficial or easily offended. and will bear with me.

I don't believe there needs to always be immediate and direct criticism of these to achieve the same end goal. Nor is it necessary to avoid politically incorrect language like "Fatherland" which is of course the correct translation for "patria" in Jose Marti's "Dos Patria", even though the term itself has fallen out of use, at least in Canada and much of the developed world. And so on. I hope it helps make the characters and my account of the actual events more realistic.

If you read and watch closely it should become apparent that Mati has more common sense and even some deeper insights into the themes within Christmas in Cuba than any of the other characters. A rather complex sense of humour too, but in this respect she is not alone.

I can't stand political correctness in writing. None of the characters are perfect, nor is the situation here. It is not a question of black and white but rather nuanced truths within the characters and the events of my tale that I hope to include to result in more realism, contrast and depth.

I am re-editing Christmas in Cuba while republishing it here on my blogsite without altering the truths or language style within the original 1997 draft. Mostly the edits deal with grammar and spacing issues, and to make the story easier for the average reader here, who will be unfamiliar with any of my other Cuba pieces, which is most all of you. 17 years is a long time. Occasionally I have noticed a technical mistake in the original story when it comes to some details and issues of continuity.
I often do these afterwards. I am publishing a work in progress [re-progressive] so there will be a number of revisions so far and in the weeks ahead.

Suppplementary links to background materials and other footnotes are being added afterwards sometimes too, to hopefully enrich your reading experience..

Today I went back and fixed some names that got mixed up. Kind of important. Duh. My mistake. You might want to reread the earlier sections later at your convenience. My regrets but that's the way I write and draft. Anyway, it will be easier to follow if you quickly review the whole story every so often to see where we are going.

I've decided to break the story down into smaller pieces, so there will be a lot more than the original 8 chapters, some of which which tended to be a bit long. I am also removing a lot of the Spanish language and just leaving the English translations since most [tho not all of you] will not understand Spanish. It's proving tricky. I am hoping for a balance which keeps to the flavour of the use of bith English and Spanish in the original version.

If you are wondering if the story is true, the answer is yes.

Hope you enjoy. Any constructive criticism, insights and/ or impressions are welcome here int he Comment section below each blog.


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