Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!?

Was going to take the day off, in celebration and appreciation of a New Year, and to count the blessings God has bestowed on us over the many New Years we have experienced. Instead, decided to do a - relatively - short post for two reasons:

Wanted to wish a very Happy New Year to family and friends, including the family I refer to as the Brotherhood-and-Sisterhood of the Blogosphere. You know who you are. I pray all your dreams and wishes will come true in 2006, and may you enjoy health, which is wealth, peace, love, and prosperity. These wishes, goes without saying, but needs saying, are extended to all Habaneros - with certain exceptions as you can imagine - whether in Havana, or anywhere else on the planet.

Inspired by one of our commentators, decided to describe the one Havana New Year's day engraved in memory, one which, for some reason, appears to have overwritten other memories of New Year's days past in Havana, as sometimes happens when a painful experience erases more pleasant memories of the same event.

When I awoke the morning of January 1, 1959 something was stirring. The apartment was quiet - mom and dad were up, sis I believe was still asleep. She liked to stay up into the wee hours, and no manner of persuasion could get her down 'til she was ready. Always a party girl!

Mom and dad had partied the night before, with friends, family, neighbors, no doubt. The place and details I do not know, but it was at the Focsa. The morning of the first, the TV was on - I saw black-and-white images of men riding jeeps, armed men, but wearing mostly civilian clothes. I thought that was odd, but looked on, fascinated. A reporter shoved a microphone towards a happy-looking man, who with gestures, spoke into the mike and said something like "now we are free, the people are free, bla bla bla." Batista was gone, mom and dad informed me. I don't recall my response and emotions too well - memory blurs, and politics, to an 8.5 year-old, are not that important. Maybe they should be, or should have been.

In later years mom and dad would tell how, early that morning, they received a call from a friend or neighbor, doesn't matter, other than this person would turn out to have been a closet sympathizer of the bearded maniac all along. The caller asked if mom and dad knew "Batista was gone." Dad says he told the caller he had heard nothing about it, and was surprised at the news "since Batista's Fourth of September party flag was still waving from Morro castle." The Fourth of September flag had been created as a symbol in commemoration of the September 4, 1933 military coup, led by Batista, against then-president Cespedes. However, to continue the story, dad realized the caller's information was accurate, not only by taking a look at the boob tube, but also since around noontime, the Fourth of September flag was hauled down.

The Fourth of September Flag - from Cuba Historical Flags

Maybe this is why the events that day are seared into my memory bank: Late that morning, or perhaps early afternoon, my then 16-year old cousin, Fernando, came running down the long hallway towards our apartment, beaming, grinning, yelling "Viva Fidel!" at the top of his lungs. He walked in, greeted the family, who did not seem to share his enthusiasm, and then, as teasing teenagers will do to the young ones, asked me to say "Viva Fidel!" I either said "No!" or shook my head, rapidly from side to side, as little, bullheaded Taurus boys did, and sometimes still do. This seemed to get cousin Fernando riled up, and again he insisted I scream "Viva Fidel!" I would not. Finally, and this must have happened when mom and dad were not in sight, he put me in a head lock and insisted I scream "Viva!" or he was gonna rap my skull with his knuckles real hard! I still refused. So, he rapped my thick skull with his knuckles real hard. No words out of the bullheaded one - so he cracked the knuckles on the bony, closely-cropped head several more times, to no avail. The stubborn little bullheaded boy had won! No "Viva Fidels!" outta that mouth, then or afterwards.

Years later, Fernando would ask, as we would reminisce and talk about the incident, "What is it you knew that we didn't...?" In fairness to my dear cousin, have to tell you that within months of that fateful day, he had made a 180 degree turn and became a staunch opponent of the toxic bearded buffoon and his band of monkeys, going so far as to become involved in groups seeking to overthrow the olive-green slug before it was too late. His father shipped him out to New York in December 1960 out of fear the slug's stormtroopers were closing in on him - as in fact happened to the group he was operating with a few months later, with dire consequences to those heroic unfortunates. What caused that 180 degree turn, I do not know exactly. All I know is that around mid-1959 he went with his parents on a tour of Oriente, driving to see the places where the "revolutionaries" had made their little war against Batista. His father told me years later, speaking about that trip, that when they returned to Havana, Fernando said to him, referring to the bearded one, "Papa-este tipo es un hijoputa..." Translation: "Dad, this guy is a sonofabitch." I think you shared the wisdom of a certain bullheaded little cousin, Fernando.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger Charlie Bravo said...

Great story, Alberto!

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes great story thank you but what about the rest??

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Albert Quiroga said...

If by "what about the rest" is meant "what about the rest of Back To The Future," it is coming, it is coming. Please be patient. And you are welcome. Your comment is appreciated.


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