Hurricane Dennis, By-Product of Global Warming

“And yet to keep on singing...”

by Celia Hart


This article, written on July 12, 2005, has been edited for Labor Standard. This version is based on the Cuba News List translation by Ana Portela, which was posted the same day on the web site of Walter Lippmann.

“Singing to the sun like the cicadas,
After a year under the rain
Like the survivors
Who return from the war”

—María Elena Walsh

That’s it exactly: to keep on singing. The Cuban revolution is a survivor of many things. It would be worthwhile for scholars and philosophers, before advancing their theories and proposing complicated solutions for the equilibrium of the world, to ask the survivors: what the battle was like; what flags were lifted by the armies; and with what principles and tactics we managed to survive—through “actually existing socialism” and through imperialism. We have been survivors of so many things that, sometimes, we aren’t even aware of it.

But today, of course, I just want to express my light impressions of another survival that is becoming constant. Every summer we must survive new hurricanes that come to test our capacity for combat.

Dennis, according to the scientists, was a meteorological abnormality. In two centuries no hurricane of such violence had attacked Cuba, and none had hit the eastern provinces, where this “knight-errant,” Sir Dennis, knocked on the door. What’s more, in two hundred years only four hurricanes have struck that region.

The peoples of the Caribbean should be courageous and make a legal demand against the rich nations’ attacks on the earth’s atmosphere. They rob the blue from the sky, the ozone layer that acts to protect us from the harmful UV rays, and every year they release millions of contaminants that have a direct effect on global warming. They are above God, of course, and when it comes to profits, to allow the planet to keep a positive balance is pure romanticism.

It’s no longer a question of how long from now these murderers plan to kill the earth. Today we are specifically talking about every summer, when these monsters of devastation are let loose on our endangered lands of the Caribbean, like Frankensteins made of water and air.

Of course, it is we, the poor, who pay with our lives and resources for the perfumes, aerosols, and energy addiction of all the irresponsible persons who have decided in favor of profit at all cost, dispensing with everything else.

The hurricane season has already begun, and the Cubans and other Caribbean nations must only think of how to protect themselves. We can no longer think of a peaceful summer vacation or of enjoying the beaches. We must protect ourselves and protect our limited resources against the genocidal war of hurricanes. The money race has spawned a new kind of terrorism: this playing with the forces of nature, adding a degree centigrade to our warm waters, is a sin that we should make them pay for.

We don’t complain of the hurricanes that are a normal price we pay for living in these beautiful lands, but these new summer devils are designed, in the end, by a perverse modern capitalism that robs the souls of children with so many plastic Chinese toys that contaminate the atmosphere, especially those plastic ones. Also, they attack our nervous systems with the stupidest propaganda infections urging us to buy that plastic toy.

Also, now, by virtue of the contaminants of the carbon byproducts from the thirst for hydrocarbons, they have been able to make more violent hurricanes merely by heating our planet, violating human and divine laws.

Cuba is one of the victims, not now of the blockade, not of state terrorism and slander. It is a yearly victim of tropical hurricanes prematurely formed by the devouring thrust of the alienated social system that dominates us.

Formed in the eastern Caribbean and after devastating the little island of Jamaica, the fourth tropical storm of the young season winked and decided to swim rapidly to attack Cuba, that long-bodied Caribbean alligator, or caiman, that lies horizontally across the Gulf of Mexico. The attack of Dennis was perverse. Since the island of Cuba is narrow it could have crossed and been out of national territory in a few hours. But no, moving northwesterly, this “knight,” Sir Dennis, had the specific intention of touring our South. It was as if, by following our coastline, he could visit all the regions of my country.

First “Sir Dennis” crossed the little corner of Granma province, as if wanting to remember the history of that rudimentary yacht that decided our future almost half a century ago. The scenes of the neighboring towns are Dantesque. It is still not known what the fury of the winds was in that area because the “hurricane-hunting” instruments were swept away after their needles reached a maximum of close to 230 km per hour.

By then, all the inhabitants had been evacuated and, consequently, we only had to lament the death of ten compatriots. “Sir Dennis” left Cabo Cruz and then got ready to visit tangentially the Pearl of the South, Cienfuegos, and the center of Cuba, passing with renewed fury through the center of the country.

All of Cuba vibrated and was on alert. The command posts of the Civil Defense knew every detail Fidel asked by phone—about how many had been evacuated; how many had disappeared; about a nearby hotel—how much it had suffered. Fidel knows all the little towns and installations in Cuba as if it were a small barrio.

Two of the legendary Round Tables had Fidel calling on the people to have hope, even making us laugh in the middle of the night and be frightened for those who had batteries in their radios, the best consolation? Not only Fidel. Jose Rubiera, that beautiful specialist and director of the Forecast Department of the Meteorology Institute, whose skill and sense of smell are already proverbial, accompanied us also. Working so close to these tropical depressions, he seems to endow them with a brain and soul.

And, Randy Alonso, of course, who carefully moderated a panel of experts in all related subjects that included Fidel and Rubiera. They were, to some degree, the protagonists of these distressful afternoons where, enraged, we taped up the windows again. Many still had them in place from the previous hurricane, and it would be worthwhile to get accustomed to those taped-up windows and see them as part of a new architecture. Who’s to know when the frenzied consumerism of the rich will design another hurricane for us?

Those of us who could listened to the beating of the winged cicadas of the radio, intent on surviving. And with a ray of hope we dreamed that this fury would not ravage Havana. We were aware of the high level of culture of each of the companeros in each municipality as they took charge of directing survival.

They knew where to evacuate the needy, how much flour was necessary to make bread, how much milk for the children, how much fuel for the ambulances if required, and even how many chickens or cows could be saved. And these compatriots had to have the figures at their fingertips because the Commandante of the anti-hurricane war did not allow any ignorance. Each conversation ended with a “Venceremos” or “Hasta la Victoria Siempre.” The mixture of culture, courage, and commitment of these officials amazed those of us who have met mayors or politicians from other countries.

From my home [in Havana] without light or water or domestic fuel for cooking, so much knowledge seemed child’s play but, in truth, we were infected with enthusiasm and thought how fortunate we were while our southern compatriots had to battle waves higher than six meters, swift winds, and intense rains, and that many may have lost their homes or roofs, but still trusted that the new roofs would be replaced and, as Fidel said, “The new roofs with metal fasteners seem to be better because, it seems, we will have to live with these undesirable visits.”

What we do not forget are the victims. Almost all were the result of accidents or personal lack of responsibility. But, even so…

The same way that we reduced the index of infant mortality at birth, since the heavens want to punish us for forgiving the opulence of the rich, we’ll have to bear a tropical hurricane every year. We will have to set the goal not to lose any Cuban or visitor. In less than two days more than a million and a half persons were evacuated. The majority to the homes of relatives or neighbors. A family that expands in our hearts in difficult times.

Fidel sarcastically called Dennis a mercenary hurricane for having entered through the Bay of Pigs with clear intentions of reaching the capital. But the same thing happened as when the mercenaries were reduced to dust in a few hours. This time, the veteran mountains of the Escambray and the green Habana-Matanzas plains were our best representatives and soldiers. From absolute arrogance “Sir Dennis” was reduced to a miserable low-category hurricane. The mountains and plains must have shouted silently, No pasaran (“You shall not pass”), thinking about our fragile capital city. When these things happen, the people, mountains, rivers, colors, birds, and fish of my country vibrate to the same beat. It’s a mystery.

And once again the fury of a hurricane was not visited upon our city. Now battered and in foul humor, “Sir Dennis” noisily left by the north, to the west of the Cuban capital.

And they still accuse my government of violating human rights! Yes, of course. I was forgetting. That society, in addition to the war it unleashes with its hedonist hurricanes out of season, is the one that defines the concepts of this world. From its point of view, we should have had, not hundreds of victims, but thousands slain by the force of “Sir Dennis.” And our country should have had no authority responsible for the protection of its inhabitants; it should have been a “family business” only, an “ownership society” favoring those who have the money to save themselves. And the rest? Well, they’ll take the trip to the sky that seems to be the only right the powerful give the poor.

That system, with its illustrious three branches of government, does not think to have a president interested in the future of his compatriots. In its view, television was invented to broadcast images of car makes and toilet paper.

I’m no longer interested in their definitions and conceptions. They have lost the right to give order to political language. Their slow terrorism against the planet earth is not only of the same caliber, but worse, than the foul terrorism that recently savaged London, whose only result, however, was to give more rope to those miserable entities who think that they own the world.

But here are the Cubans, repairing the damage, surviving like the cicadas, suffering the long blackouts because of damage to the electrical system. But yes, with the confidence that from one hurricane to the next we will continue to accuse the enemy who is the cause of so much misery. And between one accusation and another, we will take another step forward on the road of the revolution, which is the only coherent way out for the world, if saving it is still an option.