December 18, 2012

Yoani Sánchez on Christmas in Cuba


Yoani Sanchez’s Christmas tree this year.

Yoani Sánchez, blogger and author of Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today, offered a reflection on life in Cuba during Christmas on her blog yesterday. She describes how some of her neighbors go over the top with lights and decorations, while others, due to “atheism, or for lack of resources, or simply apathy towards celebration” don’t decorate at all.

Then she suggests two more reasons for enthusiastic decorations: the autonomy of non-governmental businesses and a sense of release from the restraint of years past when Christmas trees were banned in public spaces:

This Christmas, self-employed workers have made the year-end festivities their own. In the food stalls, the tiny rooms where trinkets are sold, and the private restaurants in Havana, there is a determination to decorate the spaces with images of Santa Claus, glass balls and twinkling lights. An explosion of colors and carols in the private service sector marks a big difference from the State-run counterpart. As if the excess of details and ornamentation were another way to distance themselves from the depersonalization of the many sites run by ministries and institutions.

These visual excesses of today are very likely the popular response to all those Christmas eves celebrated in whispers, or totally ignored, in which a tree with a nativity scene constituted evidence of “ideological deviation.”

In her book, Sánchez describes a bleak Christmas Day in 2008, when her family left an empty chair at the table for a missing relative — Adolfo Fernández Saínz, a Cuban journalist and dissident who was condemned during the Black Spring to fifteen years in prison.







Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.