HAVANA TIMES – This story unfolds on a Cuban Yutong bus running the route from Havana to Holguin. After the drivers kindly explained the details of the journey and a couple of hours of “music” videos at the beginning, most of which were Reggaeton tracks, a slim man, wearing small glasses and with long dreadlocks, approached the drivers quite timidly. He suggested they change the scheduled entertainment and offer passengers another cultural program (what nerve!)
The bus crew kindly accepted. The bold man put in his USB stick and we began to enjoy “Hombre mirando al sudeste” (Argentina, 1986), one of the films that elevated Eliseo Subiela’s poetry, the movie’s scriptwriter and director. And, this was almost an incredible feat for any Yutong bus ride in Cuba.
In the movie, Rantes (Hugo Soto), who comes from another planet and the future, voluntarily admits himself into a psych ward so he can study the human species and prepare his rescue. “You are robots and you still haven’t realized it,” the unique patient tells psychiatrist Julio Denis (Lorenzo Quinteros) who begins to question his own existence and profession, when trying to understand his patient.
The movie advanced with the bus. And, protests in the form of chuckling, whispering, whistling, “what a bore,” “come on”, “take this crap off”, “hey, driver, isn’t there anything else?”, were kept at a reasonable level, I mean, they were reasonable for the people driving, until a hour into the movie. At that point, when Rantes had organized a mass chorus of musicians, ordinary citizens, mental health patients, police and even doctors and nurses; at that point, well the chorus on the bus was about the same. Two very presumptuous women who were sitting behind me (who I later discovered were professionals on their way to an academic event) were crying out in protest.
The brave drivers were now alarmed and afraid in the face of the imminent anti-movie riot. The man who proposed the movie, whose ears must have also been ringing with so much shouting, sneaked up to the front of the bus to ask, himself, for them to stop the movie and give his USB back. “I should have maybe proposed another movie,” he told me when I praised his initiative during the lunch stop. Maybe he was right.
In any case, any of us following the movie weren’t able to find out what happened to that strange Messiah who the other mental health patients began to idolize at that hospital.
Those of us who thought that this would be a different, incredible trip, through that unknown country which our Highest Leader once boasted would become the most educated in the world, those of us who experience polite rage when we are being deafened with reggaeton and wonder what ever happened to the thousands of art teachers who (in other idealist projects) were meant to spread a deeper appreciation for the arts and literature to every corner of this island… were left hanging.
Chacal and Yakarta made sure to remind us that “this is tough love”, “for them to come”; or, more eloquently put, “this is for you to dance, this is for you to drink, this is for you to smoke, let me see your knickers”…
“Why do human beings seem to resign themselves to so many things that are destroying them? (…) Are they killing themselves because they are stupid or because they are paying for their sins?” Rantes asks the doctor trying to cure him.
I wanted to reflect upon that, but it was a 13-hour journey and I got tired… Wars, drought, inflation, Donald Trump, Machado Ventura, reggaeton, chicken nowhere, slippery oil, liiiiiiiiiiiiiines, the world, Cuba, a future planet… Let me see your knickers!!!