Saturday, October 10, 2009

Learning Spanish, Make That Learning Cuban

I watch the scenery pass while riding on the Amistur bus. Green everywhere. Royal palm. Trees I can't identify, maybe because they only grow here. Surprising gardens in the middle of meadows and woods even right on the edge of cities, or sprouting in open land wherever someone chooses to plant. I see banana tree orchards, sugar cane fields, rice fields, garden plots. Everywhere are old buildings, good bones, waiting for paint, decorative metal grills, balconies, I see the ubiquitus living fences, some cacti, some made of trees which sprout from cuttings. Every other fence pole sprouts new leaves. Our eyes are drawn to red hibiscus, the aromatic butterfly flowers which hid the messages behind women's ears during all revolutions, the bougainvillea. I see parks and plazas. Everywhere I see beautiful people, walking with umbrellas, riding fast on bicycles, or shouting, waving greetings with both arms, crowded in the back of a passing truck, a full to the brim bus, and carts pulled by horses. I see people sitting in groups in the shade in front of an old stone church as if waiting for the camera to flash. They sit outside a community hall or out on the porches, fanning, watching us pass. I see mothers with babies along the road waiting for the bus to stop. Buses are fined if they do not stop for passengers.

I see signs by sides of the highway, in the middle of fields and pastures, at the entrance of schools, clinics, community centers. Knowing no Spanish, I struggle to pronounce the words saying then aloud, feeling them on my tongue and letting them go. I practice until it feels right.

Seguimos con su ejemplos (with Che's image) (We follow his examples)

Siempre revolucion (A revolution always)

50 años (Fifty Years)

Venceremos porque esta en nuestro lado justicia (We will win because justice is on our side)

Las armas mas poderosas son las ideas (Ideas are the most powerful weapons)

Hasta la Victoria siempre (Always toward victory)

Para defender la revolucion (To defend the revolution)

Ni ingenuos, ni debiles (Neither naive or weak)

Alertas, energicos y combativos (Alert, energetic, willing to fight)

Tenemos y tendremos Libertad (We have and we will have freedom)

Absurdo Primer Mundo! (Absurd First World! No one sells themselves out)
Nadie se vendera

Producir con calidad es eficencia (To produce with quality is efficiency)

Cinco razones
Para sequir luchando (pictures of the Cuban 5 heroes)
(Five reasons to continue struggling)

Por la Patria
(United for the homeland, we will win)

Decir ejemplo (pictures of local heroes)
Es decir revolucion
(To say example is to say revolution)

We stopped briefly on the way back from Batabano on the side of the road. Will wanted to film the rice fields flooded up to the ankles. After a moment, the farmer clambers up the steps of the bus bringing us coconuts cut open for us to drink and ripe guava. "Thank you! Thank you!" we said, passing them to one another. "Thank you!" "Gracias!" He nods,and gives a slight salute as he backs off the bus. Amanda tells us he has climbed tall coconut trees with his knife and brought down enough for us to drink and picked his fruit for us. Visitors resting by his field. Fifty Years!! Cubans will always be Cubans.

"Venceremos! " I say under my breath. The word slips easily off my tongue. I lift the coconut to my mouth and tip my head back for a deep drink of coconut. Viva to the revolution which entrusted the land to the man who works it, grows the fruit. It is he who harvests the fruit and seeing a bus of American Nikkei admiring his rice field can follow his generous nature and upbringing freely rather than labor hard under the rules of an absent landlord who counts his profits carefully in an office in another town.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

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. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.