A quick slice-of-life shot; seen in Havana, Cuba; taken through a tour bus’ windows as we drove by:
This scene probably doesn’t look all that exceptional to you, but it’s got two interesting stories in it.
First off, what’s with the white clothes? The gent sauntering down the street in very stain-prone attire is an initiate to Santería — he’ll need to wear nothing but white and carry that white parasol for a year before he can become a full member. Santería is a syncretic religion, overlaying Catholic practices and beliefs on corresponding ones from Africa. It developed in slave communities of the island’s colonial era sugar plantations, essentially as a way to preserve and shield the slaves’ traditional beliefs from their Spanish masters (who didn’t realize that the slaves’ celebrations on Catholic saints’ days were really centered on Yoruba deities). Now that Cuba allows a growing freedom of faith, Santería has come out of the shadows and grown to include a large number (some say a majority) of Cubans as believers.
The sign on the wall is about a different kind of faith. It not only expresses solidarity with Fidel Castro (“With Fidel, Revolution”), but advertises for CDRs — Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (in Spanish, Comités de Defensa de la Revolución). CDRs are odd beasts — they do some good things (organize blood drives and vaccination efforts, help in recycling drives), but also some truly awful things (monitoring neighborhood residents for political dissension, more than occasionally assaulting said dissidents, etc.). So, CDRs are a lot like neighborhood watch, if neighborhood watch had a habit of beating people up.