HAVANA TIMES — A very wise person called Guayaquil the last redoubt of the Caribbean. I arrived in this city on March 31, under contract with the Universidad de las Artes (“Arts University”).
I don’t know whether it’s because its full name is Santiago de Guayaquil, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve felt at home here since arriving, like in my own Santiago, Santiago de Cuba, that is.
If it isn’t the capital of the Caribbean, my native city is one of the most important in the region, immersed as it is in a cocktail of cultures that gave birth to the peculiar people of Santiago (in both the positive and negative senses of the word).
Guayaquil’s worst defect, in my opinion, is that it wants to resemble Miami and its people maintain this as though it were something positive. It has immense shopping malls, where one sees local women with breast implants. This, admittedly, is an ill we catch sight in all Caribbean cities (save those in Cuba). The high-class neighborhoods in Guayaquil are decorated with palm-trees, as those in Cuba. A local writer re-batipzed the city “Guayami.”
People like salsa music here as they do in Chicharrones, folk music as is performed in Havana’s Casa de la Trova, and seafood as no one eats in Cuba. People drink very cold beer to deal with the heat, which is more intense than in Santiago de Cuba (which is saying a lot).
Here, people revere Mayor Nebot, a neo-liberal who doesn’t care one bit about culture.
Here, even though there are more than two million people in the city, everyone knows each other, as though it were a small town, or, better, as though this were Santiago de Cuba.
Put simply, Guayaquil is Santiago de Cuba with money and less culture, a place full of nice people who are only interested in living their lives.
The Universidad de las Artes faces the challenge of raising the city’s cultural level. There is no shortage of talent among its students.
Books, theaters, galleries and cinemas versus shopping malls, silicone breasts and an unquenchable thirst for money – this appears to be the battle that is to shake the last Caribbean city in the future. Will the first prove victorious? I hope so.