This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Even in paradise there can be strife

PLEASE NOTE: I wrote the original bones of this posting while in Cuba and, since returning to Canada, have edited and added to it. My good friend Linda, who was with me for the second week of my visit commented that there seemed to be an air of sadness among the local people she met. Yes, despite everyone's best efforts to be gracious hosts and to make sure the tourists had a pleasant time, there were good reasons why many hearts were not as light and smiles were not as broad as usual. This community was dealing with a triple-header of tragedy and loss. I respect them all the more for not letting it completely overwhelm them, for dancing anyway, with spirit.


This visit has been an interesting ride – and it isn't over yet! Mid-way through my second week, I am writing this on the balcony of my cabana, monster mug of cappuccino at my side, as the sun rises over the mangroves and the birds begin to dance and sing.

For all the good and positive things that have happened, the pendulum has also swung to the negative side. Bad things can happen anywhere. Last night, at the weekly Pilon street dance, my friends and I learned that there had been a murder shortly before we arrived; the party went on. Blood splatters on the floor of the open-air bar would soon blend with spilled beer and street dirt. The police had not closed the bar or sealed it off for further investigation. There was no need – there had been many witnesses, so they already had their man. Besides, the tourists were arriving for the evening.

Shit happens everywhere, in Canada and in Cuba, in small towns and large cities. Pilon is a “village”of close to 30,000 but it feels much, much smaller. People are involved in each others' lives in more profound way than in most North American communities; many smaller towns I have lived in don't feel this close-knit. It is easy to get to know people here, even peripherally. 

During my last holiday here, I visited the home of a lifeguard at the Marea del Portillo hotel – a brother of the murdered man, who was also a lifeguard there. More significantly for me, the man who stabbed him to death had helped me and my amiga when we needed transportation back to the resort one oppressively hot afternoon.

Nobody is all bad, nor all good. In this case, from what I have heard, I have to wonder if the man who committed this publicly violent act was mentally ill – but please keep in mind that this is only a guess, my personal assumption. When he was graciously helping my friend and me, I felt a slight undercurrent of something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Even though he was in no way immpolite or threatening to us, we kept our guard up and did not invite him to share our company any further, once the resort was in sight.

Apparently, this man had many problems and alcohol probably fueled his volatility on this unhappy Saturday night. From what I have heard, there were bad feelings between these two men and it was not something that involved tourists. It is not unexpected that fights occur at bars; that happens everywhere. But, in this community, it is a shock that it would come to this.

Unfortunately, this was not the first death that occurred this past week. Earlier, a child had been killed beneath the wheels of a tractor and wagon, near Mota. As is common, some people, were using an ancient farm tractor as transportation. The tractor hit an unavoidable bump and jolted the trailer so hard that it caused the mother to lose her grip on the child she was holding. I can't imagine the horror. The family will be reeling for a long time, as will many families in the area for many reasons.

In the preceding weeks, there have been other reasons for tears, mostly pertaining to the unusual amount of rain that deluged this normally arid area. Several homes were damaged or completely destroyed by flooding. Roads and streambeds are still in disarray. It will take a long time to repair or rebuild everything, because supplies are hard to get here and it is a very poor region.

Yesterday morning, two friends and I hiked up to a waterfall above the Marea del Portillo village to do an informal water ceremony. I had brought a small jar of sacred water from Huntsville, my home town; it had been blessed during a Water Festival in June, at the start of the G-8 Summit hosted in Muskoka. We added this special water to the stream connected to the reservoir that feeds the village. My wish, in doing this, was that the community would be blessed and protected. I should have saved some for Pilon, and for Mota.

Today, in Pilon, there will be a children's carnival. A little metal ferris wheel and other rides were already set up last night. The carnival equipment has seen better days. Most of the once-bright paint has peeled off, leaving only dull hints of tints, if there is any color at all. The children won't care what color the ride is. They will still laugh, play and be happy. 

Life goes on, around and around. Some say that one can't truly experience joy without understanding sorrow. The ride continues through sunshine and rain. The dance goes on.

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