As year after year, in this 2009 the most important public square in the country will be the traditional scene of the May First celebration. In a country where no one earns a living wage, there will not be a single poster asking for a salary increase. Here, where it is illegal to establish an independent trade union, no one will claim the most universal goal of workers: to join together to claim their rights. Hundreds of thousands of men and women will parade in disciplined blocks, organized ahead of time, flying the banners given to them at the meeting point.

Through the loudspeakers a professional announcer will be reading the facing slogans. Probably pointing out at some point that “once more the Cuban workers ratify, by their presence in the square, their unwavering commitment to the Revolution, to the Party, to Fidel and to Raúl.” Nothing that is said through the microphones will be spontaneous or improvised. Everything has been meticulously planned in the Party Central Committee’s offices of the Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR). Perhaps that is why special attention will be paid to the anti-imperialist allusions, as they will be a great barometer to measure the official reaction to the goodwill offers made by the new American administration.

At 9:00 pm on this same May First, a “beating of the pans” has been called to demand the elimination of the travel restrictions imposed by the Cuban government on its citizens, particularly the elimination of the humiliating permission-to-leave and the requirement of a letter-of-invitation to travel off the island. Personally, I think this banging on pots and pans demonstration will be a failure due to the dose of personal bravery needed to make noise with a pot. The three of four sounds that will be heard won’t be able to compete in unity, discipline and organization with the morning’s parade.