March 11, 2013 by vivalafiona
You probably know that Hugo Chavez died last week and all of Cuba is in mourning, with a whole lot of trepidation and fear thrown in. Venuezuela has been an exceptionally good friend to Cuba since the Chavez led revolution and many here fear the effects of the US economic embargo will increase should Venezuela change course post Chavez. The fact that Cuba beat Japan (world champions) in the World Series baseball has lifted the spirits somewhat and is as much a topic of discussion as the demise of a President. Australia too, to my surprise has a team in the World Series Baseball competition but is not faring well.
Another Australian story made it into Granma (state run national newspaper) recently. It was reported that Clive Palmer has plans to build an exact replica of the Titanic. We can only hope it too will be cursed and send him broke, thereby eradicating the crazy man from public life. The other story from Downunder that drew much attention here was the release of hundreds, or was it thousands, of crocodiles from farms before the cyclone hit in north Queensland. Weirdly Steve Irwin is currently appearing on Cuban TV and Cuban’s like many others are obsessed with Downunder’s dangerous animals, snakes and spiders.
We are finally having a winter with a lovely cool breeze blowing constantly, thanks to the cold front that arrived from the north. Those that venture onto the streets in the early morning are all wrapped up in jackets and gloves! And many women have adopted a new footware ensemble: socks and thongs. The temperatures in the mountains outside Trinidad got down to 5 degrees (7 in Havana I believe) which is not fun for people that lack any form of heating in their houses other than perhaps a wood fired stove in the kitchen and cotton blankets.
I recently discovered that the large flock of birds that zoom around in the skies above Trinidad daily are pet doves. A favourite past-time of some Cubans is raising Palomas and racing them between towns, like carrier pigeons. At various times of the day you can see the most amazing formations as hundreds of doves are released and come together in a single flock. As the sunshine catches their wings it has a shimmering effect like glitter caught in the wind. The flock transforms itself as if by magic into all kinds of shapes and patterns altering in seconds from a serpent to a rolling wave, a fish to a crescent moon as it weaves, twists and turns in the breeze and then turns back toward the town. As they hurtle over the rooftops the wooshing noise of hundreds of flapping wings can send you ducking for cover or looking skyward with awe. Young boys discourage their return to the roosts by waving broomsticks overhead keeping the birds in flight and giving them a vigorous workout.
Today is the 8th March and as I walked through the town on my early morning stroll many people called out Felicidades to me. I was a little bemused by this, knowing that it was the day of Chavez’s funeral and technically the whole country is in mourning with all cultural events (music, dance, theatre) cancelled until Saturday and the sale of rum prohibited. Cuba lost to Holland in the baseball last night so this has added an even more sombre tone to the atmosphere here. But women all over Cuba are I discovered receiving hugs and kisses and congratulations today in acknowledgement of the International Day of Women. It seems to carry as much importance as Mother’s Day thanks to the efforts of Raul Castro’s late wife Vilma. Hallelujah to that I say.
It was interesting to note the non commercial spin Cuban’s put on St Valentines Day which here is a day to celebrate love (amor) amongst all Cuban’s – parents, children, relatives, partners, friends and lovers. In Havana at least there were flowers for sale for your loved one.