Septiembre 20, 2009 at 12:18 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
The Carlos III Plaza, located on the avenue by the same name in downtown Havana, is perhaps the most popular of the hard-currency stores (shopping) in the capital, and possibly one of the best known in the island. It is visited every year by tens of thousands of Cubans from almost all parts of the island. Conceived as a farmers’ market since before 1959, it was renovated and reopened as a shopping center over ten years ago, when the possession of dollars was decriminalized and they began to circulate alongside the national currency.
Every morning before opening, until just a few days ago, people would gather at the main entrance, as much to be among the first to shop as to listen to Tomasito, a blind man who would show up every day since the creation of said Plaza to tell jokes and make speeches to the people, who afterwards would extend his hand and appreciate the coins people gave him. Tommy, of medium to small stature, chubby, bald and light eyed, was part of the landscape and the neighborhood. Residing at a nearby street, he was more popular than the market itself… that was his lifelong rock and no one ever argued about his space. But his popularity was his undoing.
On Friday, August 28th, Cuban TV channel Habana, in a program that usually deals with Havana scenes and personalities, aired a report where Tomasito appeared in various scenes, joking, going into his very humble home, walking around the streets of the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo…holding out his hands, palms up, ready to receive some coins from “his audience”. The clinch of the TV piece, which provided public opinion with proof of the existence of begging in the Castros’ revolutionary Cuba, was the protagonist’s own statement: “I do this in order to survive”. That was the end of him. In the blink of an eye, the poor blind man’s career as an artist-beggar ended. Immediately, Tomasito failed to appear at the large open air space of the Plaza Carlos III, in his place they have installed large planters, as if to justify such a remarkable absence.
Tomasito made no political statements or jokes against the system, he did not steal or importune anyone, nor did he get a lot of money from his mornings’ performances, but –confident in his insignificance- he allowed the eye of Sauron to discover him. Presumably, one of those officials who are zealous watchmen of the regime’s ideology was shocked by such a showy display of the fallacy of the system. How could it be allowed for a handicapped, one protected by the revolution, to openly proclaim his helplessness and poverty? How can it be tolerated, in addition, for him to shamelessly declare that he begs “in order to survive”? Behold! To offer pretexts to the slandering enemies! No one knows exactly what happened; the blind man has not made any statement and refuses to speak of the incident or be photographed. He apparently was duly cautioned, as the lesson in Panfilo’s case was learned, to keep the poor devils muzzled.
The rest of the story is easily inferred: the manager of the shopping plaza was called to account, reprimanded, and urged to take action. He, in turn, must have ordered Tomasito to disappear from the scene and to quit the “unlawful practice of begging” and -finally- the TV producers of the report must have gotten their slaps on the wrist, because there have been no reruns of the show despite the repetitive nature of our TV.
And there they are, the new potted plants at the Plaza, almost louder than Tomasito himself, suffering the punishment of the blazing sun with no customer offering them even a little water