“… while there was no shortage of hardships to endure, they were partly offset by the fact that life had greater dignity than before. There were more songs than before, more speeches, more parades.”
Rebellion on the farm
When the tops of our sky meet my house will have a roof
Worthy of living
The man, even if he doesn’t know it, is attached to his house little less than the mollusk to his shell. This union does not break without something dying in the house, in man… Or both.
Sweet Maria Loynaz
Last days of a house
The thing as it is
The word house undoubtedly has a very exclusive meaning for any human being, as long as it is considered in all its unity and complexity, when we integrate all its specific values into a fundamental value. Even for the one who owns a very humble room, if he is able to dream, that space acquires a special connotation, a distinction of quality, because she becomes our corner in the world, in our first universe. That ground where chance sowed the human plant seems to mean hardly anything, but on that bottom of nowhere human values grow precisely. Childhood memories are usually given a halo of happiness, which is that the birthplace is reborn in us, so it sometimes acquires glimpses of unreality. That strongly terrestrial being, the house, is what allows us to say, “I will be a inhabitant of the world, in spite of the world.” Thanks to a place of residence, our memories have shelter, because this constitutes a space of stability of the human being.
More than any landscape, the house is a state of the soul. When a child is asked to draw where he or she lives, it reflects traces of happiness or misery. From there psychologists can reflect and get clues about the mystery of life in slow and continuous formation.
If I had to compare the location of our home with any other object, I’d name a shell. She provides a long-fate image, to the beauty of her geometric shape you have to add her beauty of substance. For soft beings, nature decoupled the possibility that they could build their fortress. The turtle can also stick its head, legs and tail in its carapacho in the face of attack by any other animal. These beings have always learned to defend themselves against a big problem through a supposedly small solution. As the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote, “life is not better spent with more things, more little things; but with the things we really need, the things we really need.”1
Words and things
I have in front of me a shocking image that I wanted to keep. The Union of Computer Scientists of Cuba sent a message, after the hurricane named Matthew destroyed thousands of homes in some regions of the eastern part of the country. All you had to do was look at that picture to feel the pain of those people for the loss of their corner in the world.
We are based on the word, however, sometimes words are unfaithful to things. Every year I find it difficult to assimilate on television, the immediate statements of some victims as achieving the destructive action of cyclones. Of course, it’s journalists’ “questions” that point to those surprising optimistic and almost happy answers that they’ve lost everything. It is obvious that symbolic violence towards the interviewees is revealed, this phenomenon explained through sociology very precisely when you influence their responses. Likely, these unusual reactions of optimism and even “joy” are present in the testimonies issued by the victims of any accident. Those left alive must thank them for the visits of such an official, for the attentions received, when it is very natural and logical that this is done. Why should every tragic event that happens to us become a moment of cheap politicking? To this point we have come that the medical expenses that the state invests in each patient have been promoted and placed in murals, and our decades-long work receiving low wages brought nothing to our own attention? We are ourselves the ones who pay for social security, it is not a strange and wonderful body, it has been the work of Cubans on foot, call themselves doctor, engineer, teacher, cook, peasant… It is a collective work, not a magical apparatus that solves certain essential problems.
I compared those words torn off at limits with those written by Ena Lucía Portela in a short story titled “Hurricane”2 and they were exactly the same: They felt great! They had endured the hurricane and resisted everything they had to endure! They were confident that they would not leave them abandoned, even though they had been left alone with the clothes they were wearing, everything, absolutely everything, they lost it, but breathed safety and confidence in solving their problems.
Only what keeps hurting remains in memory. Rebuilding is much more complicated than destroying. It is regrettable that so many homes and buildings were left down and let down, while repairing and reshaping other state facilities, mainly gastronomic, that are barely visited for theft and poor service. Other properties – including hospitals – remain for many years, more than twenty, repairing in this wonder city. I know a person who belonged to a construction brigade of a state agency. They once took the group to paint a house that had such an institution in Guanabo. When they arrived, the painters asked the chief where they were getting the water from to prepare the painting. Don’t you see the sea? Where are they going to get it, with so much water in there? They painted with seawater.
When I visited Germany a few years ago, we were taken to what was left of the famous Berlin Wall. As I crossed that part of what was the sad border region of the same village, I could see that this whole area, depopulated for a long time, is now composed of a strip full of modern buildings. In just fifteen years they were established, not one or two houses, but many.
The building of 12 and 23, in the well-known corner of Vedado, was selected for a capital repair. After at least five years of supposed “hard” work, its remodeling was celebrated with hype and cymbals. In the final days, it was set out to deploy intense last-minute work (just a fortnight) to reopen it. The inconceivable thing is that it continues to be rebuilt, that is, it is not finished; a builder told me that they were in half and I very much doubt that one day it will be done with the required quality. It shakes reality, it shudders.
Building means,” writes Soren Kierkegaard, “that something is built from the base, the latter being the characteristic.3 Everyone who builds builds, but not everyone who builds buildings. This 19th-century Danish philosopher and theologian relates the task of building with the exercise of loving from what is there, for love is the one that builds, it is a personal and intimate duty that comes from within, that is the essence of any nation.
Some total destructions are replaced by poorly tasted and shadowless parks, announced with lights and noises. It is pathetic when they announce the existence of these useless spaces by the National Television News, as an event that is not news anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, other families expect adequate and sufficient resources for their urgent needs.
Observing daily meetings and more meetings with a synthesis of their dialogues, where a large part of those related to the attention to certain problems express an tasteless, trite and, above all, demagogic discourse, shows the existence of a background evil that deserves only one name: disability. Talking for talking is saying nothing.
The issue of “consumer respect” has been repeated for months, commenting that there is the possibility of “complaining”, of claiming rights that we have not had for a long time; I don’t see it yet feasible. A relative who no longer lives permanently in Cuba, brought me from a “Fast” a large coffee package; when I realized, it turns out it was Coffee Cubita in beans, according to the case. I opened it and with amazement I discovered that it was ground, in addition, from the “cellar”, that is, of terrible quality. It amazes such arbitrariness, so much dispatch for the scam. I was able to get the money back because I declared myself to be a journalist, I took one of my articles and achieved some intimidation, but every day you can not spend time, effort and let a strong character that I do not even possess, to such comineras issues. Dysfunctional life in a large part of today’s Cuban geography has become nonsense.
Citizen consciousness is appealed to, another simplicity, as state employees with their salaries cannot reproduce even as a workforce. Meanwhile, “oligarch chicks” are criticized for wearing uniforms and going to Varadero. Cynical and insubstantial attack on self-employment, which on the one hand is allowed and at the same time insulted.
A patriotic practice is taught at the pace of reggaeton, a plastic Martí is greeted, children are forced to “lower their heads” in schools as punishment for the uproar of age, animals abandoned to their fate and battered, agricultural products injected without control with chemicals for maturation and rapid marketing, the “almen-drones”4 on silent strike , because they are not taken to a conciliation table, but to an exercise in order and command.
We forget that the human being never loses his condition of education and the pedagogy that must prevail is, in short, that of love. Updating the possibility of being free and loving is precisely the challenge of all existence. Ω
1 Juan Ramón Jiménez: “Things and Words”, in Juan Ramón Jiménez in Cuba, Havana, Editorial Art and Literature, 1981, p. 95.
2 See “Huracán”, in Ena Lucía Portela: Some very serious illness, Madrid, Onlybook S.L., 2006, p. 57.
3 See Frances Torralba: Poetics of Freedom: Reading by Kierkegaard, Madrid, Caparrós Editores, S.L, 1998, p. 169.
4 Old cars, over sixty years old, transporting the habanera population. The State intends to impose on them the price they must charge for their services. Yes, it would be very good if prices were lowered from ten to five Cuban pesos, but this is not intended to be done on the basis of the law of supply and demand, that is, by taking out more state cars and buses through competition, but on the basis of what you have to do so, because yes. Far from alleviating urban transport, such coercive measures exacerbate it. Those of us who do not own our own transport are the main victims of such ideological, non-economic measures.