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Yoani Sanchez Headshot

May Day in Havana, March... Or Else

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Today I woke up to the noise of the loudspeakers shouting slogans and the horns of the buses that would be taking thousands of the May Day demonstration participants back to their provinces. The parade had been announced for weeks in all the official media, as "a dignified response to media campaign" against the Cuban government. In the workplaces everyone had to put in writing their commitment to attend, to not absent themselves from their date "with the Fatherland." Many high school and technical school students slept at their schools last night, to be brought, very early, to the Plaza of the Revolution, since nothing could be left to chance in this coming together for the workers' day. Curiously, no banners were seen calling for better wages nor criticizing the radical downsizing currently taking place.

The whole day I kept remembering Baby and Pablito who, in previous years, waved their little paper flags in that enormous architectural complex where human beings look so tiny, so anonymous. I recall they went in their red T-shirts and before leaving the neighborhood they knocked on everyone's doors so no one could evade their responsibilities to the Revolution. It was, in fact, in the living room of their house where they had that book that 8,013,966 Cubans had to sign to make socialism irreversible.* The illegal vendors avoided calling at their door and the neighbors - when speaking of the couple - touched their index and middle fingers to their shoulders, a sign that in Cuba indicates someone belongs to the ranks of the Military or the Ministry of the Interior.

Just a few months ago we learned that the activist couple had emigrated to the United States, having won places in the visa lottery of that country. She handed in her CDR vigilance card, and he turned over his Communist Party card at a meeting where everyone was left with their mouths hanging open at the news. They started to publicly buy milk and eggs on the black market and a few days before leaving they gave away some of their clothes, including the brightly colored get ups they used to march in. They boarded the plane and left behind the skins - or masks - that they had raised high for so many long years. Now, from Hialeah, they follow the alternative Cuban blogosphere, are alarmed at what is happening to the Ladies in White, and speak not with veneration, but with irritation, about our leaders.

Their unconditional ideology was as brief as the color on the paper signs they left behind on the ground of the plaza, which were drenched by the determined downpour of the first day of May.

*In June 2002, the Cuban government - violating all the requirements established by law for a referendum - had the population sign a constitutional modification that made the socialist system irreversible. Popular and academic slang called it "the constitutional mummification."

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.