A Visit to Havana’s Quinta de los Molinos

HAVANA TIMES – In the early 1990s, when my friend Pepe and I returned to Havana from a camping trip, we used to pass by Quinta de los Molinos. At that time, entry was easy. We would spend a few hours, sit down to talk, walk under the foliage, in total harmony with nature. The place transformed us if we happened to be burdened with negative energy.

The time of crisis had not yet arrived, when “inventing” became fashionable and those foods that seemed to come out of Science Fiction movies emerged. All the barely edible junk to alleviate the fierce, chronic hunger that all Cubans on the island suffer. I don’t know if you remember the disgusting “meat mass” and the stinky goose paste. Both non-food items were sold by the butcher at the bodega ration stores.

What I want to talk about today is the absurd normality with which prices suddenly increase overnight in state-run establishments, emulating private businesses. For example, the other day I arranged to meet a friend and colleague here, at Quinta.

They didn’t let him in. The caretakers told him it was closed for an event being prepared for the night.

I spoke up, explaining that we had come from far away and needed to edit a book because we are both writers and had already planned our work schedule.

Additionally, we brought food to share since you can’t eat anything on the street; a simple plate of food with meat, rice, and vegetables can cost you more than 1000 pesos.

We just wanted a bench to sit on, to work peacefully. We were not interested in accessing the museum either.

After that explanation, they allowed us in. Not without telling us that we had to pay the entrance fee, which is collected in the museum’s lobby.

The girl at the table clarified that it now costs 100 pesos per person. I was astonished and protested, “But just a few weeks ago it was 50 pesos…”

Some foreigners came in behind us, and I was even more amazed by the huge amount of money they had to pay.

The strange thing is that they didn’t give us or them any receipts or tickets…

As soon as we settled on a bench, we started editing my book. My colleague gave me good advice. Then we shared lunch and talked about other topics. The company of a friend is always pleasant, as it means healthy feedback.

To stretch our legs, we explored some areas. The Butterfly House is quite lacking now in butterflies, although it is still beautiful. In one of the ponds where carp used to abound, there are none, just greenish water.

We also went to see the peacock, chicken, guanajo, rabbit, and pigeon cages. In reality, I am against keeping animals locked up; however, whenever I go, I like to observe them. I also feel like breaking the locks and letting them all go.

When we arrived, we noticed that only the peacocks and pigeons were there. The others had disappeared. Where did the other species on display go?

After a while of being there, we saw other people walking around the place.

It seems arbitrary to tell some people they can’t enter, and others they can. And to top it off, they don’t provide receipts. This lends itself to not entering the entrance money in the register.

Their halls are rented out for various activities of study and work centers. I can’t imagine what they can achieve with the cash from a few people who visit.

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here.