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My Images of Cuba’s CDR Day Festivities

My Images of Cuba’s CDR Day Festivities
October 4, 2013
Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES — It’s been nearly a week since the congress of Cuba’s
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) ended, but Fidel
Castro continues to stare at us from the red and green banners designed
for the occasion.

With the look of a petulant father to him, he appears to scold us,
challenge us with his long finger, the one we’ve seen on Cuba’s Round
Table program so often, vigorously tapping the table to emphasize a
given point.

Cuban flags still hang, forsaken, from clotheslines and balconies,
washed by the rains of the season.

Another CDR congress and anniversary came to an end this past 28th of

Havana’s neighborhoods filled with bonfire smoke, blaring raeggeton
music and thick, dark stews flavored with pig-head meat prepared in
sooty cauldrons.

Every CDR set up its small, miserable table-altar, sarcastic altars with
stale cakes placed in the boxes used to sell the more expensive,
hard-currency pastries, watered-down rum, cheap wine and a horribly
sweet syrup-like drink. The assignation of State products did not
improve this year.

I liked our 28th of September celebrations when I was a kid. The times
in which CDR members threw eggs and tomatoes at doors and neighbors (as
reprisals against those who chose to leave the country) were behind us.
It was the 90s, and there wasn’t enough of anything to throw at people.

In the morning of CDR Day, the kids from the block would get together
and split into two groups to go out and gather recyclable materials and
vegetables. We would go around the Soviet-styled apartment buildings
carrying bunches of plantains and crushed aluminum toothpaste tubes.

At noon, we would begin to “dress up” the neighborhood: we would cover
up fences with fleshy palm leaves, make chains out of newspaper pages
and hang up the bits of aluminum paper that people threw out after
making lids for one-liter milk bottles.

Cuban flags in Havana.
The most thrilling time for us was when night fell, when we had to stand
“guard”, something we translated into a game of hide-and-seek “with our
uniforms on.”

We would stay awake until someone handed us a piece of paper we were
supposed to take to school the next day, as proof of our “revolutionary
vigilance and combativeness.”

I couldn’t say when the lively atmosphere that characterized these
occasions began to fade away.

The fact of the matter is that people stopped going outside for a breath
of fresh air and to converse with their neighbors on benches and sidewalks.

CDR meetings became less and less frequent. People stopped doing
volunteer work on Sundays and the gardens in the neighborhood common
areas were swallowed up by weeds.

This last 28th of September festivity was as lively as a funeral, a
gathering that came to an end when the soap opera’s theme music began to
be heard at 9.

The Congress was a desperate attempt at resurrecting an institution that
is very much dead.

The toughness of everyday life in Cuba, governed by the maxim of
“everyone to himself”, robs people of the energy needed to be
“combative” or to undertake collective initiatives.

Government leaders speak of reducing social indiscipline and combating
the proliferation of drugs. They call on people to donate blood and
participate in sanitation and clean-up campaigns.

In the meantime, people listen to raeggeton music, watch unemployment
rates go up and salaries remain frozen.

Something, however, has changed: now, the neighborhood watch formerly
entrusted to CDR members is in the hands of those who look after Cuba’s
new private businesses.

Source: “My Images of Cuba’s CDR Day Festivities” –

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