There is a glaring absence in our daily landscape. Those calls to march, so frequent two years ago, have become rarer, leaving behind the impression of a city permanently on edge. It used to be a rare month that Habaneros were not called to a demonstration to shout slogans and applaud passionate speeches. They regularly administered the spoonful of necessary hysteria to keep us feeling that we were in a permanent state of siege.
On those days of successive marches, public services were closed and the entire city’s transport system was put to work moving people from other provinces who came to swell the number of participants. Days in which the streets were filled with trampled paper banners and water bottles to calm the thirst. The city collapsed and for those of us who were waiting for the parade to pass, we had the sensation of living through a never ending mobilization. They were days when it was best to stay home and hope that the shouts, the edginess and the loudspeakers were easing off.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t entirely like what the cameras and the press reports showed. Political rallies—organized by the government itself—also had an enjoyable side. The high school students were delighted that classes were suspended and they could play in the middle of the crowd. In the workplace, many preferred the confusion of the demonstration—which allowed them to sneak home—over a day of working under the control of a boss. Even those who were brought in by bus found the crush of the demonstration offered an magnificent place for the lewd excesses. The informal vendors waited for the mob to shout “Vivas” and sold them untold amounts of peanuts, pastries and soda
It’s not that we miss the marches, but my city looks different without these euphoric outbursts, without the leader shouting from the podium, without the thousands of genuine and false enthusiasts who were waving the flags.