HAVANA TIMES — Without a perfectly blue sky and under a persistent drizzle, Cubans awaited the arrival on Sunday of US President Barack Obama. There was no glamour to the proceedings, only a cold array of journalists standing on a platform set up in front of the plane, quite far from it, incidentally.
The captivating smile of Barack Obama, holding a black umbrella to protect his lovely wife and daughters, was, however, enough. The fleeting moment was over when he boarded a limousine and disappeared, followed by other limos and cars. What many had hoped for didn’t happen: there were no people at either side of the street, cordoned off and holding the flags of both countries, cheering and screaming with joy.
An afternoon visit to the Havana Cathedral, so Obama could see the colonial architecture and meet with the cardinal, had been planned. Why did they not think to take him afterwards to a poor neighborhood like the one on Cuarteles and Aguiar streets, in the same Old Havana?
I like Obama. He’s a man who has brought about social change, who, in his youth, during his career as lawyer, senator and later president, worked to secure rights for African-Americans and immigrants. He’s also secured benefits for the children of underprivileged families. The fact he’s a writer makes him even more appealing to me.
While the news broadcast his agenda in Havana, I asked my mother for her opinion. She replied: “He’s a beautiful black man, but he hasn’t done anything for Cuba.” So I went in his defense and told her about the actions he’s undertaken on behalf of the people of his community. She says she has no faith in him, but she has no faith in anyone here either, to be sure.
I laughed and told her I would like to invite him over, just like the 76-year-old woman invited him to have coffee in her home, to spend 24 hours in my humble abode (at which time I would take Michelle and the girls to the apartment that my neighbor rents downstairs).
I would lay it out for him:
“Obama, here you have to have the terrible coffee they ration out to us and eat sour-tasting bread. But, don’t worry, that’s what the Pepto-Bismol you brought with you is for.”
“Oh, and another thing. If you like bathing with warm water, you have to pour it over yourself from a bucket.”
“I can offer you a bit of guava or papaya juice, but fruits have weird flavors these days, flavors you might not recognize.”
At night, I would perhaps invite him to Havana’s Art Factory or, better, the Yellow Submarine club, since I know he’s a fan of rock music. The first two beers would be on me, of course, but he’d have to pay for the rest.