Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cuba's Modern Bourgeoisie: The Jogging Class

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

Cuba's Modern Bourgeoisie: The Jogging Class
Posted: 02/21/2012 2:11 pm

Sunrise on 5th Avenue. The cars traveling fast and on the diplomatic
license plates white letters stand out against a black background. The
trees of the central promenade display their pruned leaves and the
former Soviet embassy looks like an Excaliber stuck -- without
architectural pity -- in Havana's chest. It's not hot yet, but some are
already sweating as they run along the boulevard. Wearing Adidas,
bottles of water, and white earbuds. A blue sky -- but with a touch of
exclusivity -- hangs over the largest sports area of the city, which
begins just beyond the tunnel under the Almendares River. A race track
for the social class that has already accumulated pounds, but that
prefers to jog outdoors, not on a treadmill in the gym.

A meet-and-greet place that is also called the Avenue of the Americas,
with its source of sirens at one end and its luxurious mansions on both
sides. At that corner the retired colonel and the new corporation
manager have just run into each other and talk about the weather, their
children... how beautiful the morning is. Here comes an official's
daughter, with a childhood friend with whom she shared games and
barbecues. Also, just crossing the street -- carefully -- the
white-bearded poet with his purebred dog. And the actress who has
returned from touring Europe joins the early morning calorie-burning
procession. Because by ten in the morning the sun will want to offer
them a free sauna, and none of them will be outside any longer.

Compared to the rest of Cuba, 5th Avenue stands as a rarity. And not
because such urban beauty is scarce on this Island, not at all, because
even the destroyed mansions of Central Havana maintain some of their
former beauty. What is strange is this case is not the perfectly trimmed
trees, the intact white granite benches, or the mansions with fences and
gardens, but the people themselves. The most anomalous thing that
strikes the eye is the behavior of these passersby who jog or walk their
pets. There is a touch of comfort in them, an attention to their bodies
and attire, a tranquility derived from the lack of daily annoyances.
They are like some caricature of the bourgeoisie that official discourse
tried to make us hate from the time we were little. But, there they are,
with their relaxed trot, their athletic clothes, and those extra pounds
gained through privilege that the diversion of resources or power have
given them, behind our backs, and on our backs.

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