Sociology of Transport / Regina Coyula

My acquaintances in public transport like Ms.C tells me that we are now facing another cyclical crisis in urban transport. In the rush hours you see bus stops which are full up and people hanging about in queues 50 metres long and who are trying to guess where the bus is going to pull up, which, you can be sure, will not be at the stop.

The “blues” and “yellows” we used to see have disappeared, those inspectors authorised to stop public transport and organise passengers wanting to get on. In contrast, lots of fairly empty buses associated with work places, pass the crammed-full bus stops, one after the other, giving rise to lots of colorful comments on the subject of the privileged few.

In the face of this phenomenon, I always ask myself whether it wouldn’t be better if this semi private transport were incorporated into the public transport, but as a dear acquaintance says to me: The “Razonamil* I’m taking must have too strong an effect.

The irritation of buses whizzing past just adds to other frustrations, every one of  which is a burden. Therefore, waiting for a bus and, if you can manage to get on, listening to how everyone in there gives vent – even if briefly – to his individual view of the process of modernisation of the economy, and how it provokes immediate reactions from other passengers, is a good thermometer, even though it may be that the general “reaction” is one of indifference.

Looking at the passengers’ faces doesn’t show you a happy society. Some of them pass the journey dozing, even though they are standing up; the younger ones often cut themselves off with their earphones or, on the other hand form noisy groups and are often abusive if people protest.

Most of the passengers are men and they are also the majority sitting down. Rucksacks, baskets, briefcases and parcels which seem to be heavy, take up a space which is already insufficient for the passengers. Gaunt faces, acrid smells, verbal violence in response to the slightest incident. And the heat is the last straw in this micro world.

*Translator’s note: “Razonamil” is a joke, a fake name of a drug that makes Regina “see reason”.

Translated by GH

28 March 2014


An Undignified Old Lady / Regina Coyula

This weekend I devoted to music. I had told my friend Karen, a likeable Brazilian twentysomething, that I like watching films knocking around the house, but it was Karen’s last night in Cuba, and under the influence of a forecast cold front which never arrived, we went with Rafa as chaperone to the Yellow Submarine. We saw the performance of Tierra Santa, (Holy Land) a cover group with a singer who is a cross between Ozzy Osborne and Geoff Tate, and a voice which, while not approaching that of either of those performers, has a good shot at it.

On Friday, now without Karen, Rafa took me to Maxim Rock to see Ánima Mundi (Soul of the world). It is a privilege to see this group, never mind that the sound system is not very good. In the first part they did interpretations of some of their original material. While waiting for the second part, I heard Miel con limón (Honey and lemon) and the band La vieja escuela (The old school). I sang along to famous songs, the stranger in that place where everyone seems to know everyone, and with everyone else singing from memory. I enjoyed both bands, especially the second, a forward preparation for what came next.

Shine on you, crazy diamond was the start of a short trip through Pink Floyd. Only musicians like Ánima Mundi would also take on Money, Another Brick in the Wall, and Wish you were here; a little of EL&P with Lucky man, to finish off in an amazing way with Rick Wakeman’s Arthur.

After this lavish dose of rock; Saturday blend in El Sauce. I persuaded my son to take me, as my husband is impossible in matters musical. Rafa argued with me because for me present day Habana Abierta (Open Havana) is like a cover group for the original Habana Abierta, but what are these young kids going to know about that concert in the Salón Rosado nightclub of el Tropical? I enjoyed the enchantment of the live music and, despite my son’s scolding, I was able to make myself look silly without any bother.

… And don’t ask me any more about the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Summit (CELAC) which doesn’t affect me one way or the other.

Translated by GH

3 February 2014

Police Behaviour

In a gastronomic food shop which only takes foreign currency, situated at 3rd and 8th in Miramar, a little more than a week ago, a known customer, who is a doctor at the Polyclinic at nearby 5th Ave., instead of asking for something in a discreet manner, as required, shocks the shop assistant by his drunken behaviour. The doctor is upset by the telling-off he receives, and starts using abusive language and the macho body-language well-known to Cubans. The employees decide to eject the drunk. Having been thrown out of his happy hour he returns to 3rd and 8th with reinforcements. The fight with the employees starts up right away. They call the police, who turn up quickly, but all they do is watch, until the moment when someone collapses and there is blood spilt. The doctor’s son is knifed.

Last Thursday in the same part of Miramar, but at 18th and 1st. A woman by herself, holding two signs, with the word VIOLENCE on one of them, is detained with the sign and without any preamble is put into one of the two police cars which promptly turn up.

These accounts are given to me by direct witnesses, people uninterested in politics, but in each case the way the police acted was unacceptable. It isn’t that the image of the police throughout the world has to be about helping old ladies cross the road or catching pickpockets in the act. The police should always inspire respect. But respect is one thing, fear and repulsion are something else.

Regina Coyula

Translated by GH

December 14 2012