Stuck in Time?
“Havana, a city stuck in time”. I don’t like the phrase because it really does not describe the reality of the city in which I was born. I am a ‘Habanera’ in the literal context of the word. I am familiar with its avenues, parks, plazas, and also its intimacies. The images make me sad: rubble, filth, bad odor. “What was and no longer is, is as if it never was,” a phrase which my grandmother regularly recites. How can something that is decaying be conserved?
Havana of the 1950’s is not the Havana of 2010. The aroma of Galiano street, which once invited passersby to explore all the shops as a form of entertainment, disappeared. Today it is replaced by the smell of urine. The excrement of dogs, the homeless, swindlers, cantinas, drunkards, and beggars adorning its porches. I can’t imagine how it once was. The baroque architecture is the only thing that possibly conjures the idea. The cracked columns full of stains still maintain a hint of majesty.
“My Havana, my old Havana.” Those of us who live in it are the ones that are frozen in time, or rather we travel back in time. The cars from the 1950’s do not represent the roots of tradition. They simply show the need and stagnation.
I frequently travel in them. I attempt to ignore the noise made by their adapted motors and try to concentrate on the scenery that passes me by like a film reel in fast forward. The view is the same. So many times I have stayed staring at those images which my mind can automatically describe.
Right now, I close my eyes. I see the alleys full of the elderly selling newspapers, old shoes, and all sorts of unusable merchandise. Others scavenge through piles of garbage in search of the food of their swine. Children hurriedly cross the avenue. There is a drunkard thrown on the ground. The public transport stops are packed with people who await the vehicles with tired and resigned faces. Grocery and meat shops are empty, and nearby there is one shop with a huge line that goes around the corner. Oh, and very important, there is no lack of signs along the streets against the American blockade.
That is the city I know. The one that lived its moments of splendor and has only been left with the agony of destruction.
Translated by Raul G.