Fidel is dead, there is no music in Havana.
It’s 7 o’clock in the morning in Havana. I just reached the city from Santa Clara after six hours of bus. In Spain it’s now one o’clock in the morning. I am calling Madrid and in the middle of my call Rafael, makes a slight reference to the historic moment. Which historic moment , I ask?
“Fidel has died”, he answers.
I hang up thrilled.
I open the door of the room to look for the owner of the House where I’m staying. “Fidel ha muerto” (“Fidel has died”) I say. He looks at me dumbfounded as I finish the sentence: “.. . they have just told me by the phone.”
Silence. An exchange of formalities , as if the dead person was a distant relative.
Go out to the street. I stop a devastated American car “Almendrón” and settle on the back by gently pushing the center passenger who has to do the same with the other end. In the front seat, driver and two huge guys speak of banalities: the portable phone and the bar of soap that has been recently brought to him by his brother of Miami, the money they save with such things… They laugh loudly.
My back seat neighbor smiles when he listens the laughter of the front passengers, crosses a look with me. I also smile. The salsa music inside the car leaves almost no reach to the voices. I dare to launch the conversation.: “Le acompaño en el sentimiento” (Please count on my deep sympathy)
Silence, A cold smile. Not even a word.
Taxi stops at the Parque Central. I pay ten pesos for the collective ride (half a dollar) and approach walking my friends the shoemakers.
– “Everything’s well?” Asks Joshua,
– “You tell me ,” I answer.
– His face changes. “I have learned about it when leaving home” says he. “It is serious thing, man lived a good life and a long one. Ninety years are many years. It looks like they are going to carry his remains to the square of the Revolution.”
Short talk I think, for such a great event. No one says much.
– Do you realize that nobody says anything? – I mention.
– Yes, it is strange, answers Luis. (He does not seem surprised)
Back to the street. I have been walking non stop for more than two hours now. I don’t want to miss anything of this day.
I notice a small market. I enter, captivated by the graffiti that has nearly been whipped out: “Socialismo hasta la muerte” (With socialism until death). While I am taking a picture a big black man approaches me .
– Beautiful poster, I say in anticipation of the question.
– A Cuban peso or half peso perhaps?, he says approaching me. I hand him over a Peso.
– Where are you from?
– And what is said there from what happened here? (it’s the first time that someone asks me about the event).
– Little is known over there.
– Ha! (exultant) they believed that people were going to take to the streets, that Cubans we were going have a revolt! They were wrong!
– No way, here nothing will happen- I answer- everything is tied and tied for good.
– The only thing, he says with a sad face, is music. There will be no music for a while. It’s the ethics. If you play we’ll fine you.
Normal, it’s an ethical thing, he repeats.
– Normal, I say
I keep on walking and reach the bar Floridita. Hemingsway’s prefered. Musicians are not there. Incredible.
I hit Rosalia de Castro. Climb to the second floor. Again, there are no musicians.
Havana without music is odd.
I get as far as to 23rd street and walk much of it from the Habana Libre hotel to Avenida de los Presidentes. Only four lonely national flags where hanging from the windows. It seems that the official ceremonies start tomorrow.
I pinpoint a television through a window and get into the bar. By what I see I’m the only client. The place did not exist four months ago. It’s one of those that opened in the heat of the new tourism. I order a Coke. “There is no Coke but we have national “Tucola””, says the waiter. Be it then: a Tucola.
The television speaks of Comrade Fidel. A series of interviews to different people, Eusebio Leal, a famous journalist.. all agree on the historic importance of the dead Companion.
Leave the bar and walk to the Parque Central Hotel, walk to the intermediate floor where the bar and the television are located. “A tonic water, please”. The waiter – warns me: it will be six Cuban Pesos (roughly five dollars). I’ll take the tonic and watch TV.
The interviewee says: “..comrade Fidel was a forerunner in all sciences.”
Then comes the turn of a young historian, Member of the General management of I don’t know which institution: “Comrade Fidel was always young…”
Finally the journalist: “I always knew that comrade Fidel would take care of me, my children and all the future Cuban and World generations, ….”
The closest thing to a religious sentiment, I thought.
I look around me only to realize that nobody else is watching TV.
Below, on the ground level, I can overhear the hustle and bustle of tourists.
Fidel is dead, there is no music in Havana.