The sun hasn’t come out all day and a downpour constantly forces us to duck into some doorway or stay at home. One might think that in a tropical country life is organized taking the climate into account, and that along with our light clothing we always have umbrellas and raincoats at hand. Not so. Leaking roofs are common, especially in the construction of the last fifty years; homes, offices, schools and hospitals, and even stores suffer repeated losses because of them. Collapses, now typical in the urban landscape, are not the result of bombardments of imperialism, rather they are caused by the difficulty of acquiring waterproof construction materials.
“I couldn’t go because it was raining,” is the most common excuse of the season. Not coming, or arriving late, whether to work or a lovers’ assignation, is socially acceptable when we offer this convincing excuse. But it is not always a false pretext, because the sewers on streets where we live are blocked by vegetation, and the risk of falling into a water-covered pothole is a real possibility.
In foreign films we often see scenes of crowds in the rain. We are impressed by the image of a cloud of umbrellas that extends the length of a street or the full width of the stands in a stadium. We inevitably compare these scenes with the typical appearance of our streets during a cloudburst: nylon bags used as protection, trying to cover one’s head with the newspaper Granma or a piece of cardboard; older people waiting under the balconies or huddled together at a bus stop. The pleasure it almost always gives young people who defy the storm, running along, soaked to the skin, and using the first found object – a board or an old tire – to surf on the water, clinging to the bumper of a truck.
These are days to ask ourselves when we will have a raincoat – one without holes that fits – let alone what seems to be a pipe dream for so many, when the city will not collapse because of a simple shower that falls in the tropics.