Monday, September 30, 2013

The Night of the Long Scissors

The Night of the Long Scissors / Camilo Ernesto Olivera
Posted on September 29, 2013

On 13 March 1963, during a commemoration on the steps of the University
of Havana, Fidel Castro said: "For there walks a specimen, another
byproduct we must fight (…), many of these lazy 'hipsters,' children of
the bourgeois, walk around in their too-tight pants, some of them with a
guitar thinking they're Elvis Presley. And they have taken the extreme
liberty of going to public spaces and freely organizing their 'feminine
shows' (…), they are all linked, the little lumpen, the lazy, the Elvis
Presleys, the tight jeans.

Then Castro added, "Don't let these 'hipsters' think the streets of
Havana are the streets of Miami."

Also on a March 13th, but in 1968, Castro himself launched the so-called
General Revolutionary Offensive, an operation that gave the coup de
grace to small- and medium-sized private businesses, and that also
killed the nightlife in the capital and in the whole country.

In the final months of 1967, in Czechoslovakia, the process of social
democratization began that was remembered as the "Prague Spring";
something that set off an alarm in almost all the countries tied to the
Soviet axis.

On 21 August of that year Russian military power occupied Czechoslovakia
and dismantled the government of that country with the consent of the
then Kremlin strongman, L.I. Brezhnev. This same year, in May 1968,
there was the student rebellion that turned France upside down.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, in the months before March 1968, the usual audience
of the nightclubs walked up and down La Rampa trying to kill their
boredom. They take a turn around the central tower of the Coppelia Ice
Creamery, along with spells at the cafe known as El Carmelo at 23rd,
near the intersection of this street and the Avenue of the Presidents.

Other places frequented were the terrace of the cafe at N and 21, next
to the Hotel Capri, the gardens of the Hotel Nacional gardens, and, in
the area where it was located at the time, the Czechoslovak House of

A segment of youth, those who were assigned the adjective "enfermitos" —
little sick ones — walked La Rampa at risk. The "hipsters" of the time,
with their tight pants of Chinese khaki, their sleeveless shirts with
embroidered decorations and their modified workboots. Long hair was the
privileged headache of some.

In those days the young poet from Holguin, Delfín Prats, read his poems,
"Language of Mutes," in public. The Beatles' White Album was listened to
in secret.

At the same time, Ana Lasalla and her enthusiastic court of rabid
leftists ravaged Vedado. The frenzied Communist lady actress wielded her
scissors against manes and miniskirts. These scissors had their longest
night on 25 September 1968, exactly 45 years ago today.

Around 9:00 at night that Saturday, a police cordon with uniformed and
plainclothes officers fell on the area. The indiscriminately took
prisoner everyone from casual passersby to pimps who besieged the Hotel
Capri, where sometimes Greek or French sailors from ships anchored in
the harbor stayed. The detainees were classified into three groups:
Homosexuals, Hippies, and the third classification: Improper conduct.

According to those who experienced the events, two members of the rock
group Los Pacificos were arrested very close to the corner of N and
23rd. That group, like another named Los de León (later, Los Kents),
were very popular at the time among young rock fans in the Vedado area.

The group Los Pacificos didn't survive the consequences of that harsh
and bitter night and broke up.

In his speech on Tuesday, 28 September, Fidel Castro referred to the
events of the previous Saturday. He justified the raid as a part of the
offensive being waged against "social evils." He generally accused those
arrested of being involved in vagrancy, pimping minors and other things
of this type.

On Sunday 12 October, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth)
published an extensive compendium about the raid that had occurred days
earlier. The headline read, "Yankee Dream Destroyed, the boys of the
fourth world."

Other articles appeared in the style of: "How do bands of juveniles
converted into vehicles of imperialist propaganda think and act?" There
was also a photo essay, with images of some of the boys arrested under
the title, "Is this what you want for your son?"

Specifically, an article by the journalist Alfredo Echarry noted:
"Encouraged by the role models of imperialism and inspired by the
workings of their youth gangs, they try to give a structure to
disorganization. Immediately, groups and bands identified by different
names begin to emerge, among them: The Zids, Los Chicos Now, Los Chicos
Melenudos, Los Betts, Los Chicos de la Flor, Los Chicos del Crucifijo,
Los del Palo, Los Sicodélicos, Los del Banano…" Within Echarry's
article, the term "ideological divisiveness" was the condemnatory stigma.

Today, 45 years later, the ghosts of that night of the long scissors
seem to be revived in the schools. The "moralizing" offensive of Raulism
evokes the demons of "the night of the three P's" and that tragic 25
September 1968.

Although it seems incredible, the Revolutionary terror lurks still,
ready to attack and "bring to heel" a society ever more disenchanted and

Camilo Ernesto Olivera, Havana

From Diario de Cuba

25 September 2013

Source: "The Night of the Long Scissors / Camilo Ernesto Olivera |
Translating Cuba" -

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