With every step I hear people complaining about the heat, whose sticky presence the drought makes even more difficult to bear. We all know what happens to the pressure inside a boiler if heat is applied, so problems and tensions are forecast for the summer. June has started off with the wait for those changes that pass with an exhausting slowness, with a half-heartedness that makes things worse. From the first days of the month some barbers have been permitted to usufruct their workplaces and have gone from being state employees to paying fixed, and quite high, taxes. On the one hand, the newly self-employed gain autonomy, but on the other, the price of a hair cut has soared to nearly double, now that they have to pay their own expenses, repay the treasury, and try to earn a little profit for themselves.
The issue about which everything seems most awkward is the expected release of the political prisoners, as much discussed in the foreign press as it is met with total silence in the national news. It was assumed that these men would already be out of prison, since Silvio Rodriguez himself has acknowledged that the sentences were “too harsh.” The transfer of six of them to prisons closer to their homes has the stench of a stalling tactic, an official joke in the face of so many expectations. It’s not enough to ask for transformations to happen. We have to push for their achievement as soon as possible because, in the peculiar alchemy of our situation, delay could be an explosive element.
To top it off we have a summer without rain, with the fans humming all day and the electric bills eating up our salaries. A perennial hot flash is felt in the long lines for the buses, a suffocation that accompanies us in the laborious search to find food. Fans that only manage to blow the hot air on our faces, baths with just a splash of water from a pitcher and bucket; as soon as you’re done the drops of sweat reappear on your skin. There are days when my friends lose patience and look among the family papers to see if they can find the birth certificate of a Spanish grandparent.* In the eyes of many is the unspoken sentence, “I can’t take any more.” Relax, I tell them, maybe the heat is the catalyst we have been lacking, the push we need for a lethargic population to demand that the promised openings are not delayed another month.
Barber shops and usufruct: Small barbershops and beauty salons have been turned over to the employees in usufruct, meaning they must pay the state to use its property, the establishments themselves.
Spanish grandparent: Spain recently passed a law that allows any Cuban with a Spanish grandparent to claim Spanish citizenship.