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Havana’s empty streets promise embraces to come

Habana vieja aislamientoThe silence, practically complete, is unusual. Behind doors, the sound of televisions can be faintly heard; perhaps a family conversing on their balcony, enjoying a few moments of fresh air before the nine o’clock applause for our doctors and nurses; a neighborhood dog moves carefully down the sidewalk, sensing that something strange is going on. The streets are empty. The city that never sleeps is obliged to go to bed early.

Havana is not accustomed to closing down. At any time of day, deep into the dawn hours, there are people walking the streets, living the town. Only a disease like COVID-19, so surreptitious, and thus so dangerous, that continues to kill and cause lockdowns across the planet, has been able to lower Havana’s fever for moving, throughout the day and the night.

Images of the city during the first week of September will go down in history, with residents ensconced inside their homes, the waterfront deserted, the Rampa asleep, San Lázaro without a car, neighborhoods with no one out for a walk… The obligation to stay home from seven at night until five in the morning, established by provincial authorities, was mandated to limit the population’s movement and contain propagation of the virus, which had spread to all the city’s municipalities, reaching frightening levels of incidence.

The new outbreak in Havana has had serious consequences, including more loss of human life; much of the economic, cultural, sporting life of the city brought to a standstill; and re-opening the school year on hold.

“Sad,” “The streets in my neighborhood have never been so empty, even more so than during hurricanes,” “Be strong, Havana,” “This, too, will pass,” were among the comments on social media, posted alongside photos of the deserted city.

The singularity and beauty of the moment was also noted on these platforms, as a moment when protecting the lives of every Cuban has become a collective effort: “My Havana… curfew for life;” “This is how it should be, for our health;” “Our Havana will rise up as what she is, a magical, beautiful city;” “It is absolutely necessary that our brothers and sisters in Havana make this sacrifice to free ourselves from this phantom that has us cornered.”

This is a curfew for irresponsibility, for those who consider themselves immune but cause the most vulnerable – and their own families – suffering. How much regret must those feel who know that, because of their own negligence, they are responsible for bringing the virus into their homes, putting a loved one’s life at risk!

Havana has been obliged to put a brake on its nighttime pace. No discussion, this is mandatory. This is a closedown that is saving smiles, that holds the promise of embraces to come. The streets will beat again, full of people who love them, from the entire island and the world. Today the asphalt is mute, so that, later, it will be safe.

(Source: Granma)

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