Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.
Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.


9 minutos / Jesus Jank Curbelo

27.08.2018 / Reportages

Two guys on Ameijeiras's staircase: A So-and-so, from I do not know where they made his neck: seven stitches. "Facharon" means sliced. And one block later, the carnivals. On Malecón, two blue and one green policeman carry a half-dead woman, at least, fainted, who fell round beside a portable bathroom. They take her to the ambulance, which is parked in Maceo Park, that is, on one side. In the park, there are sellers of long candies and grapes in clusters and of popcorn in nylon bags. Boxes of rum "Planchao" that cost 25 CUC. In the kiosks of inside, it is to nine the beer dispensed. In a corner of the park, a cordon of police searches all over the world and me, that I have the look on my neck, they do not even look at me.

There are a thousand kiosks and plastic toilets and rumba live with drums, bugles, ballerinas full of tights and flat bellies, costumes of colors and shreds of fabrics on the shoulders and men who turn to rhombuses of cardboards in sticks that are called lanterns. There are seats in front of some scaffolding, facing the boardwalk, where they parade. Normal people, who have no ticket or pass card, can not cross the fence and sit in the stands, watch the show from the fence. It's 9:40 on Sunday, August 19. A three-year-old boy wiggles with a balloon in his hand and the other hand in his mother's hand. In the stands is the presidency, which evaluates the floats and troupes. I see them as equal. Floats equal to other floats, troupes equal to other troupes. This one now sings in Mozambique. Some people who have passes show them to security and cross the fence. Go, torment me. Large paper mache masks. Blue and red flags on the poles.

Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.

Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.

One troupe ends and another enters Rayitos de sol, from Guanajay, Artemisa. A man asks for applause at the microphone. I think it's Magdiel, the one in Canal Habana. Repeat words like enthusiasm and cubanía. Praise the designs. The next troupe is called The Illuminati. Enter with Yoruba motifs, disguised as Orula, Oggún, etc. They are followed by Greek gods, little angels, women with feathered wings. The woman who cheers with Magdiel says they have something to do with the Parrandas de Remedios. They position themselves The trumpet of Alexander Abreu plays the Anthem. Then they start parading old cars with taxi posters on the windshields and so careful that they look new: pink, white. And then the conga. Girls and boys with lanterns pass by. Those who march past then leave, pass behind me. A "yuma" (tourist) takes a picture with a disguised and almost collapsed with emotion, opens her mouth a lot, the mask there, static, although inside probably the disguised laughs. Angels and gods continue to pass by. Children in strollers, transvestites. Little by little I stop panicking. I'm standing in the central zone, H1, which I do not know what it means, but it says it in the rows of seats. Behind are tents that sell food.

About 10 the floats start. Laritza Bacallao, Rihanna-like hair and big pommel of water in her hand, shout from one sound, sound, the drums sound. The floats bring many garlands and people with wigs that shake balloons and wiggle. They are structured as boats. Laritza goes where the helmsman and the orchestra go down, where the pirates go. I see wheels under the fringes of green fabrics and a tractor in front pulls them. The coach in front of Laritza's march with an almost funeral silence. Laritza harangue, ask for noise, shouting, hands up. When the song ends, he drinks from the doorknob, a little silence, and then sings that now his life is in a carnival, "oe", "oa". This is what happens in front of the jury. In Belascoaín, end of the story, perpetuity of silence.

Two floats later, a yellow one, where a group of timba dressed in yellow talks about being put to "guarachar" (party) and those who "guarachean" (party) are children on the shoulders of their parents, a man in a wheelchair, sellers of slushies; those of the group speak of that mulatto is a fierce one / when it goes by the highway and the wild mulatto raise the beers, they tear small boxes with food, the film with the telephones. A man sells Spiderman masks, dog-shaped balloons, flickering earrings, and Minnie's ear-studded headbands. A mulatto puts a "yuma" (tourist) in a pile. She, body, curls on the shoulders. He, short, blond beard, noble face. Every time I stumble over someone I politely apologize in case a self-conscious stabs me. But nothing. They say the problems start at 12.

Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.

Havana Carnivals 2018. Photo: Fernando Medina.

In the tents, bread with ham to four, bread with steak to 10, TuKola soft drink to 10, pork steak, 18, smoked loin, 16, Corsario rum, 74. CUC is not accepted.

The float of the FEU is majestic. More of the same, but majestic. White, golden lights. While advancing, the people continue to dance the conga. On a platform in front of the Hotel Nacional, next to the Piragua, there is a concert by the Anacaona. A black man and a black woman touche each other and fall into screams. She pretends that she is laughing like she throws everything to "bonche" (joke), he says that she does not hit and gets upset. Anacaona says the street is on. The men give waist with the legs open, the women, with the steep buttocks. On the floor, there are cans, an old beggar with a box that has San Lazaro, a family that made a camping in a beach towel. Patrols and ambulances in the streets perpendicular to Malecón. The police advance in square groups like the Roman guards, some on their backs and others in front, among those who pursue the FEU chariot, from where an orchestra that I do not know says, at the stroke of a conga, that they are left with Havana little girl and let's throw bottles. And nothing, in case the bottles fly, I return quickly, making my way difficult until the silence of Belascoaín.

On Friday the 24th, about nine o'clock, I enter the pirogue and the vendors build kites, they propose balloons and trinkets that they have in baskets. A couple dances a casino with a Van Van theme that leaves the platform where the Anacaona played on Sunday. It smells like fried chicken. Ads by Christian and Rey Alonso. Today, however, I think the way the lanterns turn is pretty and it seems to me that, after all, all the costumes have their charm and that people need this, from this orchestra where a mulatto moves his waist and says oh, happiness, where a mulatto girl in front of him puts a thick waist. Look at me how I throw my corridor, says the mulatto, look, softly, and slowly moves down until the orchestra increases intensity and the audience gives a soft waist down. The orchestra is called Sello Latino.

There is an intermediate point where all those musics are mixed and one does not know where to go and the ears do not know what to listen: to the left of the timba, there is rumba, reguetón to the right. A conga approaches the street with its drums and its dancers. They pass in front of the timba and they swallow it. The timba stops. Then, at 20 meters, a float slowly approaches, with reggaeton. As it happens, people raise their arms as the wave is done in the stadiums. This float stops exactly in front of the National and the singer asks if he is heard, Charanga Latina, a noise, women, you left / and if you left, you lost / I did not, I stayed. Some girls play with poliespuma puppets that are Dalmatian dogs. They make them walk and jump on the pavement.

Since there are LED lights on Malecón, things look sharper. It smells like urine, cigarettes, "fritanga" (fried food). A man just looks towards the nothing by stepping a handle with alcohol. Others make a choreography with a seventies music. After Calzada, tranquility. Couples squeezing on the wall of the pier and people talking. On the floats, they test the microphones. The FEU, which closes the show, is parked in front of the Tribune: speakers and speakers in the bow, inside, the battery of microphones, chairs, which controls the audio in a console, references, loudspeakers that point backwards, a staircase to the side, spotlights, railings, cold light tubes, an electric plant in the stern. One of the organizers says that today they play Charanga Latina, Guaracheros de Regla, Aragón, Tambores de Bejucal.

There is a drunkard wearing flip flops and a cap that runs wild behind the music. Another takes out a handkerchief and dances a beautiful rumba and bites his gums. A white in high heels almost falling on the gravel. "Chamaquitos" (teenagers) of 17 years with the image of old delinquents. There is a moment after nine o'clock when the policemen close, they do not let the footpath step on, and there is a moment after 12 when they relax, they throw their corridor. The little piece of the moon, the nostalgic ones facing the sea and many, many people who start to gather under the FEU coach, which now puts Un Titico while waiting for his turn to start. The FEU? 'Chacho! Candela! A half-drunk woman tells me. I would have been told by a Batista policeman in other times.

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Jesus Jank Curbelo

Reportero de Periodismo de Barrio. Columnista en El Toque e Hypermedia Magazine. Ha publicado Los Perros (novela, 2017).

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