Covid Year Notes (1)

Por José Antonio Michelena y Yarelis Rico Hernández

Cortesía de: Ángel Alonso Blanco

We’re heading for the eighth month of the year dealing with Covid-19. We would have wanted to live all this time in a capsule, in a hyperbaric chamber, in hibernation, and go outside only when it all happened. But so many things have happened in the global village in these seven months. And what is life without the experience of everyday life, of what happens and happens to us.

No matter how isolated we were, we couldn’t be without hearing the beating of the world, the multiple stories, from the origin and spread of the new coronavirus and the follow-up to the health crisis, to the social effects of an African-American suffocation by a cop in Minneapolis. Isn’t that quite one story?

On the island we have not been oblivious to the events outside, but also inside things have happened. And for everything there are criteria and positions that cause dissequents and shocks when intolerance emerges, the voices that scream louder because they want to be the only ones heard, the ones who believe themselves to be bearers of the truth.

Word New wanted to share the expressions of a group of diverse voices to offer to its readers as a sample of the personal and collective experiences that have been lived in this peculiar and amazing leap year, this twenty-twenty turned quarent(en)a.

We have asked some people to tell us about their experiences in these seven months, how their days have elapsed, how they have faced the challenges and what reading they make of what happened, what their ideas are about it.

Less than two meters away!

By Angel Alonso

Ilustración: Ángel Alonso
Ilustración: Ángel Alonso

The title of this text, taken from some old Western film, defines the attitude I took to the danger of polluting the Covid-19 during these months when the pandemic has transformed the world in a fast and unexpected way.

I have to confess that these times have been very rewarding for me on a personal level, and that does not mean that I rejoice in misfortune, it is more about bringing out the positive at every moment of life, of making those verses of Tagore a reality, in which I manifested that if you cry at night for the absence of the sun then you miss the stars.

Every moment in our lives, no if things are going on, can be used in a positive way. And this is not conformism; Papillon did not give up running away, but did not go crazy during his time in jail. We are experiencing limitations in our lives because of this disease, but in addition to saving our bodies we must save our minds.

I was lucky enough to spend the state of alarm very well accompanied by my girlfriend, in a small town in Catalonia of about 3500 inhabitants, in a nice, old and spacious house, with patio and orchard. This would not have been pleasant in a small apartment in Barcelona or in an overcrowded city like Havana. In big cities, especially if you use public transport, you come across so many people a day that the chances of getting sick multiply enormously.

Living in a small town reduces the chances of contagion but also of buying even the most basic online. Once every fortnight we would go to the market and decontaminate the food containers when we got home. Despite small awkwardness like this—and missing close contact with friends and family—we had a rather de-stressing experience: we could always see each other and chat without a hurry, with no time limit.

Our relatives in Cuba cared more about us than ourselves, as living conditions play an important role in protecting themselves from the virus. Access to hygiene items is vital in this battle and is scarce in our country. What I didn’t understand was how many here in Spain suffered so much having resolved survival.

I didn’t understand the despair that a lot of friends fell on who, bored, kept complaining on the phone. I can say there wasn’t a minute I was left in complaints or depressions. The confinement was never total, one could go out and throw away the trash, for example, and thus stretch his legs. During the spring I would go to the yard as the sun came up and, reclining in a chair, I would stick my head between the flowers in the garden to hear the bees buzzing in the middle of silence. As I write and paint I was able to take advantage of this situation in developing my work.

The normal wakefulness time we use for a day is usually about 16 or 18 hours; even if we have the schedules changed, the rest of the 24 hours we spent sleeping. If one spends about 4 hours each day writing or painting; if you do physical exercise every day; if you are well accompanied and spend a few hours playing chess or other board games, patiently making a meal, making love or reading a book… the day goes away, time flows in an enriching and active way.

Yes, the days weren’t enough for me to do everything I wanted to do at home. The possible activities we can do at home are endless. There’s always something to repair, some wall to paint. And amid the silence of confinement, without car or train noise, meditation came out naturally. Isolation allowed me, like never before, to enjoy contemplation. And when they started to allow me to go out into the countryside, I enjoyed, as well as never before, the mountains that surround the village.

I understood, above all, that I don’t need to go to a bar or a restaurant at all. It hurts more not to be able to go to the exhibitions or the movies, but it’s not something I did every day before the alarm state. And with the policy of not approaching within two meters of the people I found in the market or on the street, I felt very confident that I would not get sick, I was taking care of myself and I wasn’t afraid.

Of course, we suffer because of the deaths caused by this terrible pandemic, we do not want it, we would like to embrace our family and friends safely. It’s not about denying the dreadful thing. But it is one thing to suffer from the loss of many people because of this virus and another very different to suffer because you cannot go to the beach, or because they close a nightclub.

Now that the alarm status is over and the protective measures are minor I have started to feel fear again. Because it’s not true that bans are enforced, it’s no use forcing people to wear masks if they put them around their necks. And the noise of the cars is back, and I can no longer see deer from my window in the middle of a street, and it’s hard to protect themselves again.

The total confinement, under the hardest phase of the alarm state, proved to me a fruitful stage in every way, I was able to paint intensely, write intensely and love intensely, without pressures of time. I was able to enjoy the flight of a butterfly around my house without the distractions of daily agitation, without the speed at which we have to go in normal times. The pandemic is pitiful, but it will go away, while every minute of our lives must be well taken advantage of.


Ángel Alonso Blanco
Ángel Alonso Blanco

Angel Alonso Blanco (Havana, 1967). Visual artist, art critic and editor. In Cuba he has participated in anthological exhibitions such as El Object Esculturado, and in events such as the X Biennial of Havana and the Salon of Contemporary Art 2014. He currently resides between Havana and Calaf, a town in Catalonia near Barcelona. He is the content editor of ARTEPOLI magazine.


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