Goodbye, Hemingway; Goodbye, Floridita

Vines and ferns grow between every balcony while a skeleton of pipes and rebars barely manages to hold the structure in place. (14ymedio)

By Juan Diego Rodriguez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – Like the Hotel Ambos Mundos or the Finca Vigía, the iconic salmon-colored façade of Havana’s El Floridita, serves as a shrine to the memory of Ernest Hemingway. Anyone walking along Obispo Street, or crossing Central Park looking for the famous restaurant, founded in 1812, will find it. However, what they will see flanking it are dilapidated buildings whose potential collapse threatens not only the “birthplace of the daiquiri” but also the hundreds of Havana residents who ponder the possibility of the buildings’ demise every day .

Havana’s historic heart is falling apart and many buildings, abandoned or on the verge of being abandoned, are like grotesque doll houses. Vines and ferns grow between every balcony while a skeleton of pipes and rebars barely manage to hold the structure in place.

Sweaty and in a hurry are the few tourists who come here. Before entering Floridita, they take note of the flimsy balconies overhead. What is most surprising, however, is that the buildings next door are still inhabited, housing many Havana residents who live there on the cusp of poverty. Meanwhile, the awning of the bar-restaurant still tries to lure customers with promises it hasn’t kept for awhile: “Speciality: fish and shellfish” and “European Quality Award”.

A group of people wait for the bus and try to avoid the puddle of stagnant rainwater encroaching on the sidewalk.

A few blocks away, on the same Monserrate street, the leap from tourist Havana to the real Havana is drastic. A group of people try to avoid a puddle of stagnant rainwater encroaching onto the sidewalk. The liquid accumulates around the public benches and, as the days go by, it turns black. To make matters worse, the flooded walkway has begun filling with plastic bags, cans, food scraps and all manner of filth.

Accustomed to the sordidness of this bus stop, people waiting there choose to look across the street. (14ymedio)

Accustomed to the sordidness of this bus stop, people waiting there choose to look across the street or, more often, at their cell phones, where a video of Dubai or Paris, or the voice of an emigré family member helps them forget, if only for a moment, the ditch and the rubble.

In their faded clothes and with sadness in their eyes — more defeated than destroyed — any one of them could be a character out of a novel by the old American writer, whose bronze statue now welcomes tourists to the Floridita bar as if the radiant Havana of 60 years ago years had never said goodbye.

Translated by Translating Cuba

Lea más desde Cuba aquí en Havana Times.

3 thoughts on “Goodbye, Hemingway; Goodbye, Floridita

  • I have watched what was once called “The Pearl of the Caribbean” crumble; slowly at first then as the yoke of the so called revolution became tighter and its weight heaver the pain began. Now Cuba is reaching out in desperation to those communist nations who can best benefit from collaboration with an island just 90 miles from the US.

    Nothing is free. China and Russia will again expect payment in kind which will only add to the island’s slippery slide into a toxic quagmire from which it may never recover. Anytime you get in bed with the largest communist dictators in the world Cuba’s human rights record takes another hit. Until that yoke of oppression (rule by a relative handful of party members who Know Nothing of Economics) is thrown off, Cuba will continue to suffer.

    God bless you my island friends.


  • For anyone who never saw Havana in its glorious days even until 1968 was magical it’s hard to image it. Havana is not only falling down it’s damaged y overpopulation from the country side that has brought with them lifestyle and urban disobedience The inspectors are easy to bribe that is why just across the old Teatro Musical on Consulado St y Virtudes ( Havana music hall ) where there used to be an Art Nouveau building now is a wasteland where bananas trees have been planted. This chaotic urban landscape need decades to correct it Needles to say the anthropological damage to capitalinos Cuban is a disaster from every angle.

  • Almost all of Habana is falling down except for the new hotels!

    “Every day the bucket go to the well, one day the bottom fall out!”
    Bob Marley

    Ironic how the president attends BRIC and lectures the world about economy when he seems to either be blind or simply allowing such a corrupt system to exist in his own country; where is the credibility. Cuba has exhausted its credit with the West.
    Billions borrowed and not paid back.

    Communist regimes seemed to be the next move! Aligning Cuba with China, Russia and other totalitarian governments scores political points and renders loans and charity donations until that option too gets exhausted.

    Just my opinion and wish to be proven wrong but I am not living in Cuba!! Terrible living conditions for the masses!

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