Surreal realism

by: Antonio López Sánchez

Realismo surrealismo

By intellectual property he tells the joke that if André Breton had been born in Cuba, he was a costumbrista writer. In fact, Cuban director Arturo Sotto filmed a documentary film a few years ago whose title is Breton is a baby. The film reflected a number of national events that would have left the founder of surrealism with an open mouth of wonder. The Spaniard Joaquín Sabina has sometimes stated that, if he lived in Cuba, he would have to do a couple of songs daily.
Perhaps not a couple of songs or a surreal manifesto, but whoever lives the daily Cuba, on foot, at the end of the day has at least one unusual story, which brightens or irritates (more so than the first and without vice versa?), to narrate when he returns home. If he’s also a journalist, an inexhaustible source surrounds him. Because the daily manifestation of astonishing events, at least, or of absurd and inexplicable facts, the most, happens with great frequency.
Nothing like a queue waiting for a guagua, or waiting for anything, for that collective dialogue where the truth lives to flourish. In one of those waits, in a central Habanero park where several P routes end and begin their journey, this scribe witnessed an unusual episode. Future passengers, without the pressure of peak hours, in the middle of the morning and in acceptable quantity not to panic, see an articulated bus reach the corner. He had to empty his guts, catch his breath a little and get to the first stop to gobble up those who waited. But then another bus, of those without a route number and operating as reinforcements under inscrutable and quasi-divine designs, suddenly appeared and was placed at the stop. As it was empty, the most natural thing was that several passengers boarded it.
The other driver, as if he had been offended by the maternal lineage, advanced his articulation, put him in parallel with the newcomer (so that, by the way, he blocked the street completely) and went off in angrily. His question, in decibels similar to those of the duels of the Far West, was that who had sent that guagua there. The other driver, without much enthusiasm, answered something about an equis inspector at a point at equis kilometers, located upstream. To conclude the sledgehammer, the newcomer accelerated and left at light speeds (which, by the way, almost exterminated a couple of future travelers, including this journalist). The articulated one, without moving his carriage from the middle of the street, concluded the diatribe with anthological words, addressed in scolding to the passengers still on the ground. “And you, who see me there in the corner, don’t wait for me and leave with the first one who shows up.” No comment.
Why does a driver bother that passengers can be transported if it’s not in their vehicle? The only reason we were able to sweep those who, disciplinedly, stayed and approached the articulated and regulatory guagua, has to do with the collections. In some terminals, we don’t know if at all, wages are charged based on collection. So, if one day the buses had the necessary quantity and frequency in this city of two million inhabitants, and we should not travel in them like canned sardines; if they were less crowded and therefore less raised, then would drivers, mechanics and so on earn less too? If the good salary of this staff depends on the guaguas remaining full, which is logically equivalent to a higher collection, will there ever be guaguas, let alone empty, but at least comfortable? Analysis of all possible connotations of this matter, with single currency and solvent future salary included, requires brains up to Albert Einstein.
By the way, with regard to the areas of transport, again making water while these lines are being drafted (on the eve of experiments and implementations of new state provisions), a recent programme of the Free Access television space must be applauded. While the officials interviewed on site, and those present in the program, are triumphant about schedules completed, recovered carts, achievements and flattering prospects of guaguas coming to the country, there is another side of the coin. By the way, such officials, when they talk about indisciplines (in that undefined middle style, with some protective guild shyness), rarely clarify when this is the population and when of their own staff. It’s obvious he’s from both sides.
On the other hand, the interviewees, on foot, under hours of waiting in the street, hanging from the stirrups or tablets inside a bus aisle, say the opposite, denounce, denies, place officials, put them in an angry and public pillap, as it should be. That is the journalism that is currently required in Cuba, the space where people tell their raw truths at street level, so that officials, without becoming shy tv harakiris and recognizing deficiencies, solve them and function. Oh and, a detail on the sidelines, find out, and be amazed as we were surprised: music, any music at any volume, and the co-pilot collectors (except in three specific terminals and duly uniformed and identified) are prohibited on all buses.
This scribe cannot fail to agree with the opinion of an elderly person interviewed when he asked urban transport managers to “at least once a month, take guaguas. Put it on your agenda as a work plan, so that you can get sensitive to us and understand us better.” In fact, beyond transport, we believe that everyone responsible for some service to the population should, even once a month, and without a license or employee benefit, be a 20th-level user of that same service. It is still said, socialist collapses aside, that practice is the criterion of truth. A little practice on the sidewalk, in the management in front of a bureau, a counter or a window, they could use nothing.
The other absurdity was reflected from a fictional space, although it is a much case mentioned and we all have some known example. In a Cuban television serial, there is a young scientist who must abandon his important work (he works on projects for vaccines and other high-level lines) to become a parker. The reasons are your child’s next birth and the financial inability to support a family on their professional salary.
The most terrible detail (the most truthful) is that, while he received his salary as a scientist (a job the character claims is his life from), he finds it impossible to acquire a biochemistry book sold by a gentleman on the street. At the end of the chapter, the parker, without scientific performance but now with decent pay, disburses without weighing a figure equivalent to ten CUC to pay the longed-for volume. That scientist, if he could live decently from her, would surely return to work. There must be a lot of them like that.
It is already known to the fullness that since the 1990s they migrated, they migrate today, fearsome numbers of professionals to other better-paid endeavors, if not to other costs. But has anything been done to reverse this situation without repeating that it is because of the economic crisis and the blockade? Almost thirty years have not been enough for any solution to at least be attempted, even in spite of the blockade? We cannot be a country of waiters and parkingers; nor have the professionals, trained here (with resources spent here) scattered (without giving their contributions here) throughout the five continents, at best, or by ten thousand trades whose contributions then (usually in hard currency) are already known to be not for everyone. That absurdity has become more in the waiting list of earrings to the pair and does not seem to have land in sight. In fact, an official recently stated that some drivers affiliated with state modalities earn decent wages, so he rated them, between two thousand and five thousand pesos per month. That’s very good. When will the living wages reach the forgotten professionals who hold on their shoulders the heavy base of the arched inverted pyramid and who hardly exceed four or five hundred in their salaries, without “searches”? Will the pyramid ever straighten?
On the journey of marras on the articulated bus (which until the stop of this scribe was more or less comfortable, so the driver will have won little that morning), of course the dialogue on “the thing” arose. A burly bleak, one of those Cubans with an extroverted voice and life told to the four winds, made for everyone a narrative whose tints would make Franz Kafka pale.
The man, a storeman at a health institution for more signs, must keep a series of cards and papers with various records of warehouse operations (official documents, said they were called according to slang) for a few years. In your warehouse space you do not have a suitable place to do so and your superiors, your institution, do not have the resources to remedy the problem. A metal shelf, collected from the trash (important data in this story) and more or less in a repairable state, appeared as a solution. A friendly welder, a cabilla and a couple of patches returned the shelf to a useful survival. The man bought some screws (“six screws to cane each, my brother!”, he emphasized, implying with the accent that they were reeds of twenty-four barrels each) to fix his shelf to the wall and painted it, “with a paint sling that I kept out there in the house,” he concluded. That’s where the Odyssey began, but no trip.
An audit, a couple of months later, came close to sanctioning it as the shelf (collected in the trash), was not registered as a basic means of the place and had no seat in the inventories of the economic department. The same institution that did not have how to solve a place to preserve the blessed official documents almost punished the initiative that somehow solved the problem. “Next time, I let you miss these papers! They almost broke my brain!” argued the narrator.
An excellent joke from a humorous spectacle came back to mind when I heard the story. A character has stolen a stretcher from a hospital and by not being able to sell it decides to return it to its place. There was chaos and thousands of reviews and investigations were carried out in the face of the mysterious appearance of a stretcher. Because, the comedian said, when things get lost there are no problems, but when they show up, there’s trouble there! The dark appearance of a shelf, in a country where the “missing” is our daily bread, seems not programmed in rigid regulations and control methodologies. Rather, in the mechanical understandings and neurons of those who execute them in a robotic way.
As I get out of the guagua, as I make my way to my destination, I take a couple of well-learned lessons. In addition to not getting on a bus that appears surprisingly empty at my stop, more if the regulation is in sight, I will be very careful with the garbage in the forward. As much as there is, no matter how long it goes past and without picking up in the warehouses, I won’t dare take anything from it, especially a shelf. Les than Kafka, or Breton, gets an audit. And, just in case, I’m already studying the parking near my house. Ω

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