Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved to go on walks through the streets of Old Havana, strolling between its porticos and columns, admiring its stained-glass windows and the colonial roofs.
Havana was, despite its shortages, a city of noble and hardworking people, those with ethics and full of values. To some degree, everyone in those years was helping to build a system that seemed just, despite its limitations and theoretical idealism.
Though it hurts for me to admit it, today Havana is a sad spectacle. Its principal columns are no longer those of neoclassical architecture, those that Carpentier praised so passionately or those that we could all marvel at with such emotion. Today Havana appears sustained by curious tourists, who are not only a source of income for the State but also for those residents who take advantage of these visitors’ naiveté.
The siege of foreigners induces self-examination and shame on the part of any descent citizen. Today Havana is one of young girls who’ll do “anything” at a ridiculous price. It is the Havana of cigar vendors and corrupt police; the Havana of arranged weddings and fake Rastafaris.
Today I walked for blocks along calle Jose Dolores Pimienta and my soul recoiled in fear. I’d been taking photos of the picturesque streetscape, unaware that my well educated compatriots know about everything including the “rights to photographic images.”
“One peso for the photo please,” say the curious characters who roam Havana recreating the “colonial period.” “One peso for a kiss,” say the flower vendors to foreigners, and like this —between claves and drums, between the stilt-walkers and dogs dressed up wearing glasses— this is what’s becoming of my Havana, my heart… and also my day pack, because when I got home I realized I didn’t have it any more. It had been stolen.