BY MIAMI HERALD STAFF
This capital city remained eerily dark and silent Wednesday night as the year ended and the day marking the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution began.
There was no official explanation for the absence of celebrations, but persons who declined to be identified said that the government issued a last-minute ban on any public festivities. Celebrations will only be allowed to proceed after commemorations kick off Thursday afternoon in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city in eastern Cuba that is credited for unleashing and supporting the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
His younger brother and current leader, Raúl Castro, is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech in Santiago before a crowd of dignitaries that will be aired on Cuban television.
In Havana, the televised news from the Agencia Cubana de Noticias announced there will be a performance in honor of the 50th anniversary at the Amphitheatre of Old Havana at 9 p.m. Little else was revealed about planned festivities. Cartoons filled television screens throughout the morning.
At the Tribuna Antiimperialista in front of the U.S. Interests Section, a stage was lit but empty. Behind it, a sea of Cuban flags waved in the breeze. The Plaza de la Revolución was also lit but deserted. In the working neighborhood of Playa, the Salón Rosado, which was scheduled to hold a dance and musical performers, was closed.
Only a handful of pedestrians and vehicles roamed the streets. Subdued parties were visible through the windows of a few homes in Playa and Nuevo Vedado neighborhoods. Occasionally, music could be heard and there was the aroma of roasting pig in the air.
The big hotels were holding New Year’s Eve dinners, but these events were not related to the celebration of the anniversary of the revolution, although the lobby of the Hotel Nacional was heavily decorated with posters and pictures of Fidel Castro and other revolutionary themes.
‘‘This is very sad,’’ said Juan, an intellectual from a prominent family, as he drove through the empty Avenida de Tropicana. ``You couldn’t circulate like this on the street before. The smell of roasting pig was overwhelming and the music from one home would mix with the music of the next home.
‘‘And I am not talking about 10 years ago. I’m talking a couple of years ago,’’ he added.
Loyal supporters of the revolution did not seem interested in lavish celebrations.