Havana Declaration: He’s an Assassin

I thought I’d already written all I had to say about New Year’s Eve in Cuba. Likewise, I figured a couple posts about Donald Trump – the Cuban reaction to his election; his overall ineptitude – were sufficient, more than enough in fact. But 2017 was a particularly difficult year thanks to what the politicians, planet and life in general had wrought; given their wont to let off steam when the going gets tough and daily grind too trying, Cubans were anxious to bid goodbye the past year with a four-day weekend. And hell of a party.

Life-long traditions like eating 12 grapes at midnight; tossing a bucket of water out the door to purge the house of last year’s nastiness; and walking around the block with suitcase in tow to ensure future travels, are part of the national New Year’s script. Fireworks, on this island where fun and spectacle are homemade instead of manufactured, are making inroads, despite this year’s tragedy in Remedios. But 2017 required something more dramatic, more purging, more political, a bigger catharsis and my new-found family from the campo didn’t disappoint.

When Ivan told me over Christmas Eve dinner to come early on the 31st to help build an effigy, I took it as idle talk – the kind of statement Cubans make to fill the silent void, akin to the wishful thinking about what fast food they’ll eat once they reach the Yuma or the car they’d buy if they could.

“We need an old pair of pants!” Ivan told me over the phone as we prepared to make our way to his house in Marianao (or Playa, depending on who you ask). It seemed the effigy business was serious, a tradition in this family of guajiros. When we arrived, the life-sized muñeco was well along, the straw-stuffed torso, legs and head laid out for assembly in the driveway below a Cuban flag (another tradition here heralding Fidel and Co.’s victorious 1959 entry into Havana). The shirt and pants were so tightly packed the thing almost stood on its own, but a fist of tawny straw was saved out to fashion that absurd swoop of a ‘do ridiculed from Rye to Katmandu.

My Cuban family was burning an effigy of Donald Trump to ring out the year.

Mounted on a cross for easy transport to the corner, the tucked-away street was dead quiet leading up to midnight. But long-time neighbors knew the glee which overcame Ivan on New Year’s (the whiskey didn’t hurt) and they began drifting from their houses once Donald made his debut. One of the first was an overweight, dyed blond Cubana-Americana in a motley housecoat: “that’s a real man! That’s my President. You’re burning my President?!” she shrieked as she filmed everything with her iPhone. And then almost to herself: ‘this is going straight to Facebook.’ Her embarrassing revelations were interrupted by my second cousin:

“We should have made it Marco Rubio. He’s the real son of a bitch.”
“Yes! We should have made a Mini Me/Marco to go with Trump and burned them together,” I said.

The neighbors – save the bottle blonde – started weighing in.

“Rubio’s the real asshole. An even bigger imbecile than Trump,” opined Neighbor #1.
“And he’s never even set foot on this island! But he acts like he’s struggled and suffered through the same as us,” said Neighbor #2, spitting on the ground for emphasis.

As Lázaro doused Trump’s feet in black market gas, fireworks popped, shouts of ¡Felicidades! rang out and cascades of water arched from bucket to street. 2017 was history.

We sparked a couple of Cuban matches and tossed them in Trump’s direction. The effigy burst into flames the height of two men, burning fast and hot, temporarily silencing the dozens gathered in the street. As we watched rapt, bottles of ice-cold sparkling cider (used here in lieu of champagne, whether out of tradition or lack, I know not) were uncorked and passed around among neighbors and friends. By now, would-be, wannabe, travelers started making their way around the block with wheelie carts, backpacks and duffels. One couple dressed to the nines, looked ready to alight at Charles de Gaulle, while an entire family, five generations all told, headed down the street with luggage in tow. ‘¡Buen viaje!’ we shouted out.

“See you at Terminal 2!” yelled an older gentleman in response.

The graceful Chinese lanterns containing wishes of wealth and health for the new year drew our eyes skyward as they soared high above the Havana rooftops. We pledged to do that next year – something positive and beautiful to be seen by the whole city. Dreaming of the year to come, we watched Trump go up in flames, his head and silly hair crashing to the ground. Through the revelry and smoke, singed straw and sparks, I caught the eye of my suegra:

“Trump is a bad man. A very bad man. He’s an assassin,” she said softly.

Happy 2018 everyone!



Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Expat life, Living Abroad, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Havana Declaration: He’s an Assassin

  1. Lynn Deringer

    No picture? Gee we’d love to drop in to your café but we’ll be way east in Gramma province. Appreciate your articles needless to say!

    • Ay Lynn! Ive spent the last hour trying to upload three tiny format photos into the post but cuban dial up is something “special!” have a wonderful trip in el oriente. great part of the country!

  2. Melissa C.S.

    Excellent, Conner! Cheers! You never failed to amuse me, haha! I hope you would write some fiction too. Take care!

  3. Alberto

    It’s nice to know that Cubans are not fond of Cuban-Americans either. I can’t stand those people, especially the white/mesitzo ones. One time this mestizo-looking Cuban American asked me “How was Africa?” in a derogatory way. I should have said, “Let me take a trip to Cuba and I let you know.” It’s interesting to see the contrast between the real Cubans and Cuban-Americans; the islenos are sweet, humble, and funny while those sons of bitches are stuck up, rude muthafuckas who like slapping pots and pans together like retarded children.

    If I have another issue with a Cuban-American and wanna play that superior card with me. I will tell them “I can easily destroy your whole family life, especially now that Donald Trump is president. All I have to do is call I.C.E. and send a few tweets to Trump about illegal aliens. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain baby

  4. Love it! Trump piñatas have been big here in México for the past year and a half. Nothing like whacking the empty calorie candy stuffing out of him — and the kids are happy, too!

  5. Shar

    Hi Connor. I love your stories!
    I was saddened however, reading this one where you commented on the release of the lanterns etc..Please don’t release any Chinese lanterns. What goes up must come down and when these things land they pollute the world, especially the oceans and cause death to many innocent animals
    who get stuck in Them.

    • Hola Shar. Yikes, hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for the heads up. After participating in the World Wide Ocean Clean Up here, we stopped using/providing straws at Cuba Libro for this precise reason. No chinese lanterns for us. Happy 2018!

  6. Julie

    Happy New Year! I love reading about your Cuban life, thank you! 🙂

  7. Shawn

    I love Cuba and my visit there makes me yearn for it everyday. Your blogs make me feel right at home like I’m crammed on the bus with 100 people. Cant wait to move there.

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