Oct. 9 (cont.)
From our bus, the group leaders & Armando pointed out sites, and narrated interesting tidbits of info.
But really, I saw most of Havana blur by peeking thru the open top window of a bumping yellow school bus – sans shock absorbers, which accounts for most of the blurred, misaligned photos I took today.
But still exciting!
When we were finally belched out of the big yellow belly, it was in the center of an enormous parking lot with nothing much to see. We were at the Plaza de la Revolución, and the only noteworthy things in sight were two large buildings on each side of an endless expanse of cement baking under the tropical sun.
One of the buildings had a 6+ story, black wire image of Che Guevara on it with a quote scripted across the bottom in his handwriting: “Hasta Victoria. Siempre,” (“Until victory. Always, Che.” This was his closing signature on letters he wrote during and after the Revolution. It’s also the name of a song about him.)
Armando informed us that this building, the Ministry of the Interior, was where Che ruled as Interior Minister after the 1959 Revolution victory. Across from the Ministry building was an enormous white statue of Jose Martí sitting before the most sky-reaching structure I’ve ever seen (other than the Twin Towers before they fell).
Armando explained that this huge, empty cement lot was Revolution Plaza – the very place where thousands of civilian Cubans celebrated with Fidelistas (Fidel Castro’s revolution army guys) on that long ago day in 1959 when the Cuban Revolution toppled Batista.
I looked around with new eyes.
I could almost hear the cheering, see the throngs of Cubans past… hugging each other, pumping fists into the air, waving arms, not bothering to wipe away tears of joy, intense relief, gratitude, hope for the future.
Victory for the oppressed. This is where it happened.
It felt good standing there, soaking that in.
The red and blue, 3-striped Cuban flag with its single big white star rippled in a rare breeze before the statue of Jose Martí.
“Is that the Communist flag?” someone asked.
“It’s the Cuban flag,” Armando answered flatly. “There is no Communist flag.”
His expression was unreadable, and I couldn’t help wondering what our Cuban facilitator thought of Americans.
Was that a stupid question to him?
Did it make him wonder about the ignorance of Americans?
His face gave no clue to his thoughts, and I caught myself watching his reactions closely throughout the rest of the day to see if I could detect some sign of what Cubans really think about us.
Later, when I commented to him on the similarity of our country’s flags, he proudly explained the significance of the colors and design of the Cuban flag:
Red = blood of those who died in war of independence
White = purity of ideas (liberty, freedom)
Blue = color of sky, and ocean which surrounds Cuba
3 stripes = the three areas that Cuba was divided into: east, central & west
Single white star = 1 star because Cuba is united as one.
I couldn’t help notice, as he talked about his flag, that Armando sounded a lot like the only other Cubans I had known – Osvaldo and Mañuel – speaking with heartfelt pride about their motherland.
This, as it did with Osvaldo and Mañuel , surprised me a bit.
From what my own country says about Cuba, I guess I didn’t expect Cubans here to be proud of such a reportedly horrible place…
“Diary of An American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land.”