Memories of G Street, Havana

Ernesto Carrolero

G Street Havana by night. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — The G Street promenade in Havana is, without a doubt, the place I and most of my classmates will remember most fondly.

Going there gave you a certain aura of rebelliousness and made you important in the eyes of friends who weren’t even allowed to get near the place.

When we sat on one of the benches there (often missing a number of boards), we would place a bottle of homemade “wine” (sold for 1 CUC) on the ground in front of us and feel as though we were on top of the world.

There, there was neither family nor teachers to keep an eye on us. It was like our own, private country, a place that came to life when night fell. Those of us who didn’t have a “traditional” family (but rather incomplete families) came together there. People who were short one parent – who had gone on an internationalist mission, had left the country, was in prison or was absent for any other reason – and had nowhere else to go, making G street their home, feeling awkward in their own.

Being there made you feel truly free.

There, it didn’t matter who you were, for there were no prejudices with respect to how much money you had, how intelligent you were, or what your sexual orientation was.

As we walked down the avenue, we would come across a group of people singing a song by Joaquin Sabina or the chorus of a piece by Micha. What one heard most, however, was rock. You saw some people who were a little or very high, but the general attitude was fairly pragmatic: “If they don’t mess with us, no problem.” Besides, everyone goes there because they want the freedom to do what they want. The police would prowl the area but didn’t do much, knowing they aren’t exactly popular among the regulars.

Spontaneity was the order of the day: you could become friends with anyone effortlessly and the atmosphere was one of peace.

A group of people was playing the handkerchief game on the sidewalk and others were kicking around a crushed can as though it were a soccer ball. It’s incredible such childish games are able to entertain people that age, but there isn’t much else to do. Social rules have been rethought there and no one is really put off by anything you do.

There, you can scream, run round, climb onto a statue whose inscription you’ve never even laid eyes on. Such “feats” are usually applauded by your peers and has prompted authorities to place powerful streetlamps and even cameras in places.

Despite all this, G street is a place of broken dreams. You always find someone crying over something, or over someone who’s left. Getting drunk on cheap wine isn’t so much a way of having fun as a means of escaping. You often see people who, between vomits, call a friend over under their breath, so they will give them a shoulder to cry on.