Intermediate Stations

20 May

I had to come to Havana and I was about to start when they informed me of my house arrest. To avoid problems I postponed the trip until yesterday. I committed suicide by taking the so-called “regular” train service in Cuba. It was eighteen hours from San German to Havana, and I thought it would never end.

Plagued by the mosquitoes, cockroaches and the more than 85 degree heat, I passed the sea in the background.

To those who don’t live at end-of-the-line stations but rather along the line, they don’t sell us tickets to Havana and almost always only assign about a dozen for each trip, and if we add to that that on this occasions two of the cars were full of soldiers from the Interior Ministry (MINIT) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), traveling to their schools, and another one with athletes for the sports Olympics the State has invented for them, then the opportunities to get where you’re going are two: Either wait for “mass transportation” to come by, or get on no matter what the cost.

In this case I chose the second. I got on, paid the ticket surcharge (twice the fare), but never mind I still didn’t get a seat for 100 pesos. Then I sat on the floor like many others in each car, and between sleeping and swatting the mosquitoes I passed some of the worst 18 hours of my life.

On this train there’s no water and I had in my backpack a plastic bottle just in case. The food they sold had been made eighteen hours earlier and to top it off the trip turned into a mob of underground sellers running from the police and railroad inspectors.

For every minute it’s late to each station where it has to stop, we have to wait and give priority to others. I wanted to see the face of an executive, businessman, or “Communist party cadre” but didn’t find one; we who travel crammed into these trains are those euphemistically known as “the New Man.” We are that nuisance for which society must subsidize even a train adventure, like the one I’m telling you about, we who do not know how to live, as they say in the national speeches, without “Daddy State.”

This, my trip to Havana, would be the best way to introduce the new Minister of Transport to his job, someone who never dreams that he would ride for a single minute on the living hell of regular train service. I’m sure of it.

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