It's 5am and I wake to the sound of beating drums, whistles and cheers. I should keep sleeping but something epic is brewing outside and I can’t just lie in bed.
I run to my balcony overlooking Avenida 23 of Vedado and see an ocean of people gearing up for the annual march through La Plaza de la Revolución. I forget that I'm still dizzy with fatigue and run upstairs to wake up my mates, ”Guys you're gonna want to see this."
Soon we’re on the street pushing and stumbling our way through the half million people that make the march every year until we get to the bottom of the plaza. Loud speakers blast Fusil contra fusil as people sing along and cry. The sun comes up behind Che’s image on the Ministry of Interior building and the march begins.
We go with the flow and pretty soon I'm separated from my mates by at least a hundred people. I’m drifting, just one in half a million.
I've never been around this many people in my life. A smashing of this much flesh, on such a hot morning, can't be healthy. Our march probably resembles that of penguins more than humans. But I'm not thinking about that. I'm curious about all the people waving at us from the foot of the giant Jose Martí monument as we cross the center of the plaza. Obviously dignitaries and guests of the state. They wave flags of their respective countries and cheer for us in solidarity. I'm most excited by the Ikurriña flag of the Basque country.
On the highest row, above all of them, stand what look like generals and commanders dressed ready for combat. And in the middle of them is a man dressed in a white guayabera. Everyone around me seems to be waving to him. "¿Quién es? (Who's that?)" I ask the short girl next to me. She looks at me like I'm crazy then simply replies, "Raúl."