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Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Mayday. International Worker's Day. Big Commie holiday. Around seven in the morning, it sounded as though an army was marching down the street. There were huge truckloads of people being brought in from the suburbs to hear El Jefe speak at the Plaza De La Revolución. Some clown decided that music was called for, and blasted Son music from a boombox. Apparently sleep was out of the question this morning, so I dragged myself out to the Plaza along with the rest of Habana. At least half of the town (one million plus) were there, but there was no crowding or shoving or danger of trampling.

Even though it was early, the sun was merciless, and I started to get very thirsty. There were water trucks everywhere, but I didn't think I should drink the water. I wandered around while the speeches were going on, looking for a stand selling bottled water or soft drinks. There was not even one. I had to laugh: here I was at the big Communist rally, and I was looking around for something to buy. Proof that I am an Imperialista Yanquí after all.

Finally El Jefe arrived at the podium, and the crowd started chanting "Fi-del! Fi-del! Fi-del!" They love the guy. Fidel was an olive colored speck from my point of view. I listened to him for quite awhile, but the sun was starting to get to me. I hadn't had any breakfast, and I could tell I was getting dehydrated. Some teenagers were passing cups back and forth, and I must have looked thirsty, because one of them handed me a cup. It was iced rum. Well, it was liquid at least, and the sugar in the rum gave me some strength. When El Comandante started reciting endless statistics of the Revolución's accomplishments, I started to make my way out of the crowd. I was halfway out of there when he started to wind up the speech. As soon as he said "¡Socialismo o muerte!," people started getting up and gathering their things.

I walked down La Rampa with the Internationale anthem blaring over the loudspeakers and finally came upon a sidewalk café where the Cristal beer was almost frozen. ¡Gracias a Dios mio! ¡Salvación! Nothing ever tasted as good as those two beers with a liter of cold mineral water. After I had rehydrated myself, I walked on to Manolito's house. He was kind enough to lend me a spare electric piano so I could practise while I was there. Now I was set: I had a nice little studio apartment in Vedado with a refrigerator, air conditioning, TV, and a piano! I practised that afternoon, and called all over town looking for some Timba shows, but nothing was going on that night that intrigued me. I decided to go back to La Zorra Y El Cuervo for more jazz.

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Some good Cuban web sites:

click on the "multimedia" button and listen to live Cuban radio and TV.
A general info site, with a slant towards tourism and news.
If you have broadband, check out their Flash site.

Genuine comida criolla recipes direct from Cuba. Spanish only.

Hit Parade Nacional
from Radio Rebelde.








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