Coun­try re­turn­ing to nor­mal­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Ha­vana

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.”

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