Human Condition: Morning in Cárdenas, Cuba, has its own rhythm _lowres


I am staying at a Presbyterian church in the El Fuerte neighborhood of Cárdenas, Cuba. I get out of bed early to see the sunrise, go down the stairs, open the fridge, take un vaso de jugo (glass of fresh juice) and listen to the music of Ibrahim Ferrer.

Next comes the morning constitution. No toilet paper, old newspaper works as well. Flush the toilet … doesn’t work. Take a cubito, (bucket), fill it with water, flush the toilet! Shower. Yea, a real shower and it is working today. Put on a clean pair of pants and shirt and open the front door. Cárdenas life has started up already.

The bread vendor slowly bicycles past the church announcing his arrival with fresh pan (bread). Horses with coches (coaches) are passing by taking people all over the city for one peso. These horses have to work almost 18 hours a day in the streets of “la Ciudad de Cangrejos,” (city of crabs).

The women who are living on this street, which is the central street of Cardenas, walk in and out of one another’s houses to gossip. The mother of the woman next door died last week, and her husband ran away the day after. Now she is living with her old and always drunk father and her son, Carlito, 4, who is often visiting us at our church.

I am visiting friends down the street when somebody knocks at the door. It is the man of the permuta (exchanging of houses); his house is much bigger than this house, and my friends would love to exchange theirs with his. He says he has lowered the price from $3,000 to $2,500 and that they will have to decide next Monday if they are able to pay that amount or not.

It has to happen because the boys are getting older and sooner or later will marry, so more room is needed for the future.

I offered to help, but my friends don’t want my money to help them. There are Cubans who do love an extranjero (foreigner) without hunting fulas (dollars). My friends tell me, “You don’t have to solve our problems.”

Then I hear, “Me voy, me voy! Señoritas quedan pocas, me quedan tres, solo 99 centavos!” The man is selling cookies in the street.

I love to sit in that chair, keeping the door open with my feet and listening to the morning street noise of Calle Calzada.

— Hinojosa lives in Baton Rouge

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