Reality is Mad as a Hatter

Born in Cuba



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Reality Is Mad as a Hatter

"Tell me something.  Tell me whether Marxism forbids eating glass.  I'd like to know." 

This happened in the mid-seventies, in the eastern part of Cuba.  The man was standing in the doorway, waiting.  I begged his pardon.  I said that I didn't know much about Marxism, just a little, a very little, and that he would be better off consulting a specialist in Havana.

"They already took me to Havana," he said, "where I was examined by doctors.  The Comandante paid me a visit.  Fidel said to me:  'Look here:  Are you doing this simply out of ignorance?'"

For eating glass, they took away his Communist Youth card. 

"They examined me right here in Baracoa."

Trígimo Suárez was an exemplary militiaman, a frontline sugar cane cutter and a vanguard worker--the kind who works twenty hours and charges for eight.  He was always the first to step forward to cut cane or shoulder a gun, but he had a passion for glass.

"It's not a defect,"  he explained to me.  "It's a need."

When Trígimo was mobilized to help with the harvest or to go on military exercises, his mother would pack his rucksack with food:  she would put in a few empty bottles for lunch and dinner, and for dessert, old fluorescent tubes.  She also would throw in some burnt out lightbulbs for him to snack on.

Trígimo took me to his house in Camilo Cienfuegos, a division of Baracoa.  As we chatted, I drank coffee and he ate lightbulbs.  When he finished off the glass, he sucked greedily on the filaments.

"Glass calls to me.  I love glass like I love the Revolution."

Trígimo assured me that he had no blots on his past.  He had never eaten glass belonging to anyone else except once, just once, when, crazed with hunger, he devoured a fellow worker's eyeglasses.

Galeano, Eduardo.  "Reality Is Mad as a Hatter."  The Book of Embraces.  Trans.  Belfrage, Cedric.  New York:  Norton Company, 1991. 53.


Our group chose to devote our page to this abrazo because we feel that, through satire, Galeano makes an interesting point about communism.

Using the links at the upper left of this page will lead you to information on Marxism and Cuba, our interpretation of this abrazo, a story about a woman's experience growing up in Cuba, and reflections on her experience. 

The following pages were created by Emily Cox, Erin Robb, Nicholas Perry, and Noel Parish