HAVANA Of all the naughty words and phrases I remember from childhood, two stood out as being particularly taboo: Christmas and Human Rights.
I remember hearing the first occasionally, but only in a hushed voice. It was something a grandmother might mention from time to time, someone whod once had the experience of decorated trees, Christmas sweets and turkey. But the second of those off-limits words, when acknowledged at all, was muttered with contempt to allude to our so-called enemies: people who were said to be involved in counterrevolutionary acts.
Thats how I grew up, far from the end-of-year festivities enjoyed in so many other countries and believing that evil lurked behind the U.N.s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. My limited vocabulary was evidence of how Id been conditioned to be full of fears and to accept restriction after restriction.
This December, the shops are adorned with flashing lights and trees brimming with decorations. A rather slim Santa Claus smiles through a store window in a major Havana shopping mall. When people meet up with each other they casually say things like Merry Christmas, or Im out doing my Christmas shopping, or Come on over to the house to celebrate Christmas.
The 'human rights crowd'
Yes, Christmas considered for decades to be a bad word has made its way back into the islands general vocabulary. But that same neighbor who might invite you over for a Christmas meal may also tell you: Watch out. Dont get too close to those people. Theyre part of the human rights crowd.
At some protest rally somewhere on the island, the mention of human rights will still prompt the political policeman stationed on the corner to mummer into his radio: Yes, here come some of those people from the Human Rights faction. We all have a friend still who tells us to keep our voices down, saying if youre going to talk about that kind of stuff, its better to turn the music up.
A hypothetical snow has begun falling on our red Christmas caps. But before it even has time to collect, its being washed away by the same tropical downpour of intolerance and arrests that has swamped Cuba for decades and that blows the breath right back into the mouths of anyone who dares utter the words human rights.
Read the original story in Spanish
Photo - Leshaines123