Country returning to normality
Music is playing in the streets again. Tourists are sipping mojitos at sidewalk cafes. Flags are flapping at full staff. After nine days of national mourning for Fidel Castro, Cuba is slowly returning to noisy, boisterous normality.
Cuba is a country where sidewalks serve as living rooms and social clubs, but during the mourning period people mostly stayed indoors and watched television.
With a government ban on selling alcohol and on playing live or recorded music after Castro’s death, Cubans paid tribute to their longtime leader in near silence. They filed by the hundreds of thousands through special sites equipped with photos of Castro as a young guerrilla and books where people could separately sign their condolences.
“It was very quiet. In a bar, restaurant, you could hear the air conditioning,” Janine Jenner, a German tourist, said on Monday as she had a glass of sangria in Old Havana. “Today it’s like someone turned the noise on everywhere. It’s like the pulse of the city is back. People smile more.”
Clamor is a constant in Cuba. Music of all types blares at top volume at all hours of the day. People rev motorcycle engines for hours under their neighbors’ windows, or flatten hundreds of soda cans for recycling at 7 am on a Saturday.
All that noise suddenly hushed the morning after Castro’s Nov 25 death was announced. Even the incidental noise of Cuban life — children laughing while playing in the streets, neighbors shouting to each other — seemed to fall away.
Life started creeping back on Monday. But the mood was still somber.
Bartender Mailen Fuentes said: “It’s going to take time to get used to the idea that Fidel is no longer here.”