The persecuted Desoto made its final delivery before coming to a complete stop as if ordered through divine intervention cease and desist. The rear axle bowed by fifty years of pot holes, broken boulevards and too many bodies in too few seats made its final journey. Unless?
Across the city Maurice Del Rio rises every morning dressed in the same white linen shirt he considers doing business - loads his one prized commodity a rear axle for a 1958 Desoto. He will pull it in a two wheel cart to the same intersection adopted as his own retail outlet the past seven years. Thousands of cars will pass each day - few will stop most looking for Buick, Chevy, Ford or Oldsmobile parts. Del Rio snubs his nose at that foreign made shit Lada. The Russians left them as a reminder of what a great sense of humour they have.
Del Rio plays the Cuban lottery. In his mind he could take home 200, 2000, 20000, pesos depending on the importance of the person in need.
In 1956 the rumba played all night in his old neighborhood. He begged his first drink from an American. Del Rio remembers making love in back alleys and hallways on his way home just as the policia whipped their batons on the backs of the most violent. He had money made from the tables. He had debts lost at the same tables. He lived with fear yet he lived.
He was on the side of revolution. Life for him would have been otherwise brief. He remembers the butchers who collected debts and the cruelty that followed. Revolution spared him an unceremonious end.
Each day he reflects on the past fifty - five years in isolation and wonders if the year’s in-between could have been more eventful. He had many friends, but the same friends. He'd look beyond the broad sea and dreamt of walking streets in foreign lands, savouring exotic fruits only rumoured to exist in National Geographic. There were too many moments he felt he would suffocate from anxiety.
Del Rios grandchildren are much different. They are fully educated in the sciences and medicine the kind of abilities the world beyond is looking for - they are specialized not special like his children. He believes they will one day clear impasse and he will watch his beloved Havana blossom in front of the world.
Tonight he will have other bowl of ice cream just like countless nights before. He will watch baseball and tolerate the many soap operas with so much drama and obvious endings that leak through the walls of surrounding apartments into his private domain and pour himself one last drink of rum before surrender.
I had several moments feeling the suffocating intensity of political stagnation where past and present don’t relate.
Revolution in Cuba from my vantage was inevitable. Batista was a murderous scoundrel. The CIA and mob ruled Havana along with Batista’s thugs. What followed could have been much more than draconian isolation. I’m always amused by naïve patter about the glory of communism and the people’s will. Horseshit! People are always pawns either right or left and the ones who die for the cause or lack of cause.
There is no reason on God’s earth why Cuba is so disconnected from the rest of the planet other than fear and manipulation. The embargo is one vile action that has caused the politicos to hold such a heavy grip on power the other is pure fantasy - The utopian state.
When you feed your own scraps of nostalgia you are starving them.
You can rightly point a finger at American policy of the fifties and sixties where the most murderous scum of the world were seated in power whether Iran, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile in a global fight against the scourge of communism. Add up the deaths and thousands tortured with such a half baked theory. The age of J. Edgar Hoover!
This is 2013 and the world has moved on. Vietnam joined the free market twenty years back – still communist but quietly building a global economy with capitalism at the core. China won’t budge from its communist dogma but a force in commerce. We do willing business with both - which leaves us with Cuba. WTF?
Cubans are much like us. Gregarious, hard working, proud and have big dreams. To me it feels like one big Italian family. Everyone talks at once. Politics, world affairs, baseball, soccer, boxing, music – everyone has an opinion. I walk down a street with my Toronto hat and everyone stops me and talks about the Blue Jays. I meet former baseball players and all those hanging around speak in glowing terms of the person who wore cleats and swung a bat at such a high level in Cuban sports.
Musicians are revered not Madonna road kill. Pride, pride, pride. If you are a special musician everyone knows and they celebrate you.
I went to Havana to photograph but got sidetrack with music. You can’t escape!
No one has challenged the Castro clan or understands how such a thing is done. There is very little fear with the young yet they don’t know revolution in modern terms so they coexist with the past.
From this vantage point end the embargo and let change happen organically. Timing couldn’t be better. Republicans are hypocrites and fake Americans. Ignore them. Just make the move and watch how magically the doors will open!
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