Maggie Alarcón

Decorating the night

In Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Economics, Politics on December 29, 2011 at 9:59 am


Margarita Alarcón Perea

Children have a keen way of expressing reality exactly the way they see it. No hidden taboos, no fear of embarrassment, no self consciousness whatsoever. They just blurt out whatever it is they see and feel faithfully the way they see and feel it. I am not  one of those parents who gloats on her child’s “abilities”, in fact, most who know me well, feel I am a bit too “Stalinistic” or un-permissive as it were; but the other evening my son blew me away.

We were out with a good friend and her young boy of 4 in their new neighborhood. They have just become part of the growing number of Cubans on the island who have reached a summit point in their lives and have finally bought their own home. The place is quaint, small, one and half bedrooms, bath,  a small living dining room space with an adjoining kitchen which fits a huge fridge and other kitchen appliances. The most extraordinary thing about the place is the view and the light. It overlooks most of the City of Havana right over 26th Avenue and the night sky is visible from every angle of the place, this alone together with the breeze makes it worth every penny of their savings.

We were hungry so we decided to walk around the new neighborhood and ended up in a small garage entrance cafeteria with a huge sign in the form of a red dot four blocks from the new apartment. The place offers a wide variety of sandwiches and salads so for those of you in the US it pretty much resembles a stand up salad bar which also serves (my favorite) ice tea.  

Four young people were there in attendance of the four newly arrived customers. Our two boys were romping up and down the slope that leads to the counter while my friend and I studied the menu on the wall and placed our orders. After about 10min or so, I wasn’t counting, the food was served in lovely plates and on trays resembling china but really plastic with napkins and huge amounts of greens. The beverages were all in glass not plastic or metal and there were plenty of extra napkins to go around.

Suddenly as I was enjoying my Club Sandwich a la cubana, (no turkey, plenty of ham), I mentioned to my friend, how it was that we were enjoying the ecstatic feeling of a night on the town just before sundown and it was all prompted by the important social and economic changes that have recently been taking place on the island. She agreed and interjected that more were needed; we both agree that change takes time and in order for things to work in all of our favor it must come about slowly.   

Just as we were finishing our meal, one of the young men walked over to the garden side of the establishment and began to light with kerosene these lovely metal structures and before we knew it, dusk was full of 5 garden lights burning bright; we were all mesmerized by the beauty of the entire spectacle, watching the flames take on a life of their own, some vibrant and rebellious others willing to burn in quiet calm and serenity as the crescent moon was rising right behind us with Venus guiding her. Each one of us had something to comment,  on the place, the food, the ambiance, the lights, the new apartment, the neighborhood, but it was my 7 year old  who I believe said it best: “…they are decorating the night…”.

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