Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

18 de Abril del 2000

CUBA'S MUSEUMS OF NATURAL HISTORY AND "BAR FLIES." By Rafael Contreras Bueno, Cuba Free Press.

Pinar del Rio.-The liquor bars have become Cuba's museums of natural history to help us through our daily grind. At a bar one sees everything, from the habitual drunk - determined to die at the bottom of a bottle - to those who actually have hated alcohol most of their lives.

Now mindful of the bar schedules, the latter are the newer bar flies. On our island, with so much misery and scarcity, our bars have filled with all sorts of characters.

One can see policemen recently expelled from their jobs for corruption mingling with old bearded revolutionaries - the original ones from the hills. Some of the new arrivals were just yesterday's untouchables. These include province government bureaucrats who, from inside their cars, didn't know what was happening outside.

These characters, minus their ranks, which were taken away for one reason or another, look for the solidarity offered by the cigar smoke and the common sweat - all soaked in alcohol. The policeman who up until recently hated the unemployed, speaks to one of that very same category, inventing love stories. No longer a policeman, he now has become a confidante at the local bar.

The unemployed hold no grudges. On the contrary, they are grateful, especially when this time the policeman pays for the drinks.

At a city bar, the heretofore haughty bureaucrat has now become a tearful victim of injustice. At times he screams out his hatred and occasionally lets go an oath about a high-placed secret or a deficiency only those in high places would know about.

As the days wear on, these characters, suddenly thrown into a new status, seem to adapt - at least on the surface. They blend with those drinking and smoking who seem to have been always at these bars, now turned into temples to the noise, intrigue and remorse.

One can hear the crying in the midst of a drunken haze of an ex-policeman or a former government inspector. Many are now people who used to look down on their own mothers.

That's the way things have become. The stories at all these bars are probably similar, a routine shared among them. Corrupt policemen, bureaucrats caught "in the act," inspectors who extorted one too many times. These are such common tales.

One sees also the fellow who up until yesterday was "down and out," now with a suit or uniform in the high role of a new "authority." He will come around asking for ID's from those he hated the most. He will go directly for the ex-policeman he despised. A simple role exchange.

All of Cuba seems that way. Roles often have been reversed. The bars are little more than a showcase for our social reality. If you visit Cuba, enter one of our regular bars. You might be surprised to drink a low quality rum, pay for it in our national currency and hear a bureaucrat cry out his longing for the job he lost.

You may end up talking to workers who earn a miserable wage and came there to drown their sorrows among the unemployed, the beggars and those thrown out of their jobs, now all together as brothers and yet isolated in their life struggles. You will be at the place deserved by those frustrated formerly "untouchables" whose turn to swell the ranks of the losers has arrived.

Rafael Contreras Bueno, Cuba Free Press.

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