sábado, 15 de junio de 2013

Patria o Muerte

Defending Socialism

I have been thinking lately, about what it is that makes Cuba seem so jarring.  It is a very mysterious place, with a lot of seemingly inherent social contradictions.  You see some things that really make you stop and think: that is what I was waiting for!  Like when you see a 1950s car. And then other things that just seem really out of place or contradictory.

I think previously I had always focussed on the things themselves.  Like the prevalence of smoking in a country that is meant to have one of the best medical systems in the world.  But I think the main one, or what it all boils down to is politics - or social structure.  The image that I had in my mind before going to Cuba was playing chess or dominoes in the street, 1950s cars, street music, cigars, rum, mojitos on the beach and Che, obviously.  And Cuba is all those things, undoubtedly.  There life runs to a different beat to in the West, an unhurried one.  It is almost like an exotic, time-warped version of reality.  Education, music and sports seem to take more prominence, especially the latter two, than in Western cultures.  But bearing down over this more relaxed lifestyle, is the ominous presence of socialism.

We want you all to be like Che - Fidel.

Travelling around some of the most common and, for me, the most shocking hints at its presence were signs painted here and there bearing messages such as: patria o muerte (father-land or death), or socialismo o muerte (socialism or death).  What I found the most confronting about these were that they were so common place, so everyday, and passed by locals without even a blink.  So it seems that the idealised relaxed Cuban lifestyle is peppered with social and political propaganda.  I don't intend to debate the benefits of socialism versus capitalism, but rather to note the oppressive political vibes that are constantly being sent out.  Maybe that is rather an indication of the perceived threat of other ways of life encroaching on their established system.

viernes, 7 de junio de 2013

La Calle Por La Noche

Oaxaca, in the days leading up to Día de los Muertos.  Maybe it was just my imagination, my own excitement for Día de los Muertos, but there was an energy, an electricity in the air, and particularly at night, when people would come out dressed up, or in a parade.  I remember thinking shortly after arriving in Mexico, that while it is pretty during the day, it is stunning at night.  Maybe it is because everything seems to take on a kind of mystic quality, like the borders between the real and the unreal, reality and dreams seem to blur.  There is more potential at night; greater possibilities, choices and events that would never occur during daylight hours.  This is, of course, exaggerated to a completely different scale around Día de los Muertos, when the divide between the living and the dead realms is meant to be at its weakest.  Everyone seemed to be buzzing.  Although it may have just been that my vision was distorted by my own buzzing, shaking everything, I don't really believe that.  Sitting at this food stall I could feel the excitement tugging at me, drawing me back to see what was happening around the zócalo.

What I wouldn't give to be back there now, instead of working on an essay for Uni.  Even take away the excitement of Día de los Muertos, what could be more enticing than the carelessness of walking down a deserted street late at night, drawn by the scent of frying meats and tortillas?  Like a moth to the flame, not just drawn in by the smell, but by the well-lit stall against the dark night.  The carefree days of late night tacos.