A man in a striped red shirt hops and dashes at the base of the slope at the highest hill overlooking the small southern town. He doesn’t heed the danger of the weeded cliff a few steps behind him because he is laughing and yelling at his homemade kite struggling for flight in the wind. His friend cheers for him, or is telling him to watch out. The Spanish words machine gun through my brain into the fray of cheering people behind me. Dozens of children and adults howling and giggling at each other, pulling strings twisted together on the ground like thread at the bottom of a craft box. Two and three at a time, small colors on markered hexagons pop into the overcast sky.
An old woman in a hat next to me squeals and tugs on her tether; “Wooo! Wooo!”
I’m so busy looking up that I don’t realize that the hill is littered with refuse. I step over a crushed Crystal beer can and a deserted Puma sandal, a chunk missing from the toe. I think about a piece of that European rubber jumbling around in the belly of the goat next to me. He looks at us, and chews blankly.
The rest of the Americans in the group storm the hill like a group of Ponce de Leóns discovering the fountain of youth. We are strangers to this joy. Unfettered in its natural state, sterling happiness, created by a makeshift runway on a scrap yard, with people launching hand made kites. Clickety click, the sound of cameras shutter as we desperately try and bottle it, wanting to hide this Cuban joy in our luggage along with the contraband rum and cigars.
The power of the moment overwhelmed. The innocence of the moment was too pure to let even my western guilt taint it. I put my camera away and sat on a broken cement block and sketched for a brief minute, feeling warm from the sun that radiated from the people in their delight, just as drops started to fall from the cloud above.
The joy came, and it was.
Then it rained, and it went.
The laughter roaring into dusty air.