Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez
It was very early, the circles under the speaker's eyes could be seen
like two dark wounds, and the sun was not yet too punishing in Maximo
Gomez Plaza. On soft seats, a small group witnessed live the 26th of
July event in Ciego de Avila province. Meanwhile, the rest of those in
the Plaza sat on plastic chairs or were simply left standing. From this
side of the screen, we few viewers awake at that hour made an effort not
to go back to sleep. The event was so boring and so predictable in its
structure that at times it seemed like a rebroadcast from the previous
year. Not even a spontaneous breeze moved the hair of the attendees.
Even the fly on the face of the orator that took a fancy to the camera,
But the greatest monotony came with the words of Jose Ramon Machado
Ventura. An hour after having heard them, it was difficult to remember
what had been said by this grayest of all vice presidents, the most
dogmatic of the orthodox. During the scheduled pauses in the speech
someone shouted a slogan which was then repeated by the crowd. The
applause heard was also conveniently administered, without unauthorized
outbreaks, with no fits and starts. Enormous credentials hung from the
necks of those who enjoyed the chairs, giving the lie, with such an
excess of paper and plastic, to the calls from the podium for efficiency
and putting an end to the bureaucracy.
In a moment that must have been the end, though it could just as well
have been a break in the script, Raul Castro left without having
directed a single word to the crowd. He rose from his chair and walked
away, followed closely by a loyal bodyguard who has more of a role on TV
than some ministers. The Plaza quickly began to empty out, as the
speaker tried to close with certain slogans that once moved passions.
"And this is all that's left?" I thought, with sorrow for others. With
this exhausted choreography they thought to move passions? I turned off
the TV in the middle of a phrase and went back to sleep. Outside the sun
was warming the balconies, drying up the puddles, revealing the cracks.
Translator's note: The 26th of July was the date of the failed 1953
attack by Fidel Castro and others on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de
Cuba, and was taken as the name of his movement. It is celebrated
annually in Cuba.