Translator: RSP


Tonight and throughout the night to go on any street and you will see the number of people walking or crawling with heavy weights, and despite the bitter cold, they head to the shrine of El Rincón. Many are walking, others are in rented or private cars, most come in buses, whose lines, fortunately, the state has foreseen to keep orderly on this day, in order to avoid disturbances.

It is always impressive to see how many people imbued with faith, continue the tradition that for half a century the mainstream media has tried to overlook.

To all who profess faith in this holy miracle, and for those who bear his name, I wish that all your requests may be met. Happy day to all Lazaruses!

For those of you who aren’t aware, the International Artisan Fair (FIART) is the most important exhibition on our planet, with artists-artisans exhibiting their creations and exposing them to the world once a year.

Pierced ostrich eggs.

As always, despite the distance and the cold that’s been hitting us lately, the event was very well attended. We were surprised to see during mid-week days and during working hours, the number of people in line to get tickets, mostly young people of working age. The reason for the long lines could also be that there is only a small ticket booth staffed by a single person selling admissions.

Handcrafter

This year, as almost always, metalworking is the star attraction. Many stands, including those of Peru, Mexico, Brazil exhibit very attractive silver work. The Cuban metalworkers also show their beautiful creations. There is a lot of handcrafted furniture in the largest rooms. Meanwhile, the weavers and dollmakers are crowded for lack of space.

Doll in yute fibers.

The public that attends this event comes mostly to look, because the prices, although a little lower this year, are in CUC and this greatly diminishes the opportunity to acquire anything. But still, the fair is very popular because there are few other options for entertainment.

I think it’s a karmic problem. The thing is, whenever a need arises, straight away my hand goes up, as if it were on a spring. For sure, more than a few times I’ve regretted this impulse, but what can I do? It’s a question of temperament.

After a big nosh up, when everyone else is starting to doze off, I’m the one who takes the initiative and starts clearing away, and if someone else doesn’t take care of it first, I’ll start doing the dishes as well.

I remember the year 1968 when I had to travel to Prague, from Paris, where I was working, to sort out a problem that wouldn’t take me more than three days, and so I travelled with my return ticket already reserved. Basically, because I was leaving my young son for his dad to look after.

I arrived in that beautiful city one afternoon with a letter of introduction asking Cuba’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia (a friend of my husband’s) to put me up and and to do whatever he could for me.

They gave me a guest room on the top floor and warned me not to be alarmed if I heard grinding noises because a train went past the back of the house during the night.

Of course, I hardly slept. The sound of grinding kept me awake until the small hours when finally I was overcome by sleep.

Very early in the morning, I got ready for my planned appointment and I went downstairs to look for the ambassador’s wife, who had kindly offered to come with me. When I saw her I said “I’m all set”. She sounded a bit shaken and said to me “We can’t go. We’re tied up!”. “OK”, I replied, a bit sheepishly, “So let’s go when you’re not so busy”. And she said “It’s the country that’s being tied up!* By Warsaw Pact troops!”. That was when I looked around me and noticed that there were people nervously going hither and thither, not seeming to know what to do. Suddenly I realised that the grinding noise that hadn’t let me sleep a wink had been coming from the tanks and that the ambassador’s residence was located between the airport and the Soviets’ lodgings. Given the situation, for their safety, and while waiting for instructions from Havana, the ambassador had decided to bring to his home all the women and the children related to the Cuban staff.

All the Czechs who worked at the house had taken off, leaving us without a cook to see to those lodged at the ambassador’s house. And that’s when, once again, I put up my hand, and suddenly, as if by magic I found myself cooking for a household of nearly a hundred people.

My mini-break turned into a one-of-a-kind experience obliging me to stay in Prague longer than planned, until the airports were re-opened.

A word of advice: even after reading this post, if your heart tells you to put your hand up, don’t resist.

Translated by RSP

* Translator’s note. Rebeca Monzo uses a play on words here in the Spanish text. Spanish uses the same word , “ocupado” (occupied) both for being busy and for being physically overrun and occupied by a foreign army. Both senses of “ocupado” have been translated here as “tied up.”

My grandmother used to say this proverb often. I happen to think that misfortunes, even if they occur alone, are never welcome.

This time, two tragedies, close in time and space, have come hand-in-hand:

The first, caused by nature, devastated the capital of Haiti, the poorest country in this hemisphere. It goes without saying how deeply moved we feel in the face of such a colossal tragedy, and the little we can do, as individuals from this island, to alleviate such pain.

The other, caused by the neglect, insensitivity and dishonesty of human beings, has caused the death of nearly forty patients in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, better known as Mazorra.

The first was unpredictable, almost inevitable; the second is simply unforgivable.

The scandal was exposed because the foreign media rushed to the scene; who knows who tipped them off. If they hadn’t, we probably never would have heard about it.

I think that other deaths must have occurred in different hospitals and nursing homes, as everyone knows that there are serious shortcomings with respect to nutrition and hygiene in these centers, and that unscrupulous hands are trading on the black market at the expense of the health of patients, because of the lack of rigorous control and of supervision by the appropriate authorities.

Translated by: Tomás A. & RSP

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