YESTERDAY, all my troubles seemed so far away…

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Many people think that “having the use of reason” or saying “since I have had the use of reason” is something that happened at a very early age. Of course, I am not going to elucidate this dichotomy. But in my case, it is not so. I do not deny that I remember some events from my childhood and that I keep a few memories of experiences and events of notable relevance to me from that time, which turned out to be irrelevant to other people who witnessed them.

For example, the image of feeling myself lying on the dewy grass in front of my house, just before dawn on Three Kings’ Day, is etched in my memory as something super spectacular, impressed by the wonder of that red disc of spinning sparks when I pulled the trigger of my machine gun. I can feel the cold, the darkness, the smell of earth. It was not happiness or contentment; it was the surprise of noticing so many sensations at once.

Also, the first time I held a jewel in my hands. It was noon, and it felt as if time had stopped while I gazed at that luminous little stone set in a gold-plated brass ring that I discovered on a finger of my cousin…

None of this has to do with reason or thinking. It is part of a finer framework that responds to emotions and feelings. It has to do with moments under the impact of “for the first time,” the encounter with the unknown. Reasoning is more about when we make comparisons with what we have already seen.

That’s why I remember that, as a child, in my neighborhood there were two bus stops and that, during peak hours, a bus ran on each route every five minutes. I remember that although there were official stops every three blocks, you could board any bus route outside of it. You just made a signal with your hand or extended an arm. You didn’t have to say “Thank you” or pay extra. You could also get off anywhere before reaching the stop; you simply said, “Driver, let me off here,” you didn’t even have to say “please.”

It was more than a “citizen’s right” for the customer: it was a personal pleasure for the employee to serve, to contribute to the well-being or comfort of others. It was that simple; it was normal, reciprocal. Some said “Thank you” and others “Please,” but if you didn’t say it, if you forgot, the driver or anyone else would think you were in a hurry, that you had an urgent problem, a sad situation… They wouldn’t judge your behavior or education, they wouldn’t look at another person making a face, they wouldn’t comment; they were pleased with the favor they provided and, if you said “Thank you,” they would respond, “You’re welcome,” “No need to thank,” “It was a pleasure,” or “Don’t mention it!” And if you said, “Please…” before stating your need, the other person would look at you surprised and say, “Of course!” or, regardless of whether it was a woman, they would say, “Man! Don’t mention it!”

We have forgotten that when one asks someone for a favor, they do so with the certainty that the person is in a position to help them. You place them in a position of high-mindedness, an opportunity worthy of acting with generosity, and it is that person who should thank you for the honor you are doing them.

Psychologically, whoever asks for a favor does so from a symbolic position of poverty and weakness, and whoever gives, gives from an allegorical place of abundance and power. That is why the one who grants favors, the one who offers the benefit, is the one who should thank the beneficiary for the opportunity to express their magnificence, to be just, and to act rightly.

Today, in my neighborhood, there is only one bus terminal left, with buses that hardly pass. From there, some eight routes, I think more, go to various parts of Havana. I don’t know the exact number, but there are days when only three buses have been working to cover all the routes, which means that only during the daytime each route hardly makes a couple of trips. On days that I would now call with sad euphemism “normal,” you can be waiting more than three hours sitting on a curb, at a doorstep, standing in the sun, hungry, etc. Today the bus stops are every five blocks. Do not dare to ask the driver to let you off outside the stop to save yourself a few blocks of walking!

There are places where there is no official stop, but they are strategic places that make it possible for a route that does not go to your destination to bring you closer to where you are going and you are in a hurry. The ideal route would be the A-56 to go from Old Havana to La Virgen del Camino. These routes I mention are not from my neighborhood’s stop, but they belong to the same miserable current reality.

The case is that the A-66 runs from Old Havana to Regla, skirting the Havana Port Avenue, and on this route, it passes by the place called Cayo Cruz, a former landfill of the capital, which is a few blocks from La Virgen del Camino, making it wonderful to get off there and continue on foot. However, to the amazement of anyone moderately intelligent, there is no official stop there, and the drivers refuse to stop there. If you ask if they would stop there, they say they officially cannot, but if you give them ten or twenty pesos, they will have no qualms about “doing you the favor.”

Read more from Eduardo N. Cordovi here.

Eduardo N. Cordovi

I was born and live in Lawton, Havana, on October 29, 1950. A potter, painter and woodcarver. I have published in newspapers and magazines in the country and in the Peruvian magazine with continental circulation Menú Journal. Editorial Oriente published my book, Bebidas notables in 1989, also published by along with my novel Conspiracy in Havana.

One thought on “YESTERDAY, all my troubles seemed so far away…

  • The account of Cuba’s present day public transportation reminds me of an old assumption “Everything was better before” and although normally assuming that everything was better years ago is incorrect, the Cuban present is the exception.
    There are things I still remember, like going to school in my first grade and they gave us lunch and you could afford to say you didn’t like what they gave you, of course, speaking as a kid who ate nothing but rice and beans.

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