Strange Characters on the Beach

The coastline in front of my home.

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – It’s 7:30 AM, I have breakfast and get ready to go to the sea. It’s right in front of my house, so I often go for a swim depending on how the waves are.

I prefer the water when it’s “plato”, as we Cubans say, that is to say, calm, without any waves. On La Puntilla beach, you have to be careful when walking along the “diente de perro” (dogtooth), because these rocks are really sharp, so I walk slowly, avoiding the super rugged parts.

Our beach would be nicer if visitors didn’t throw their garbage everywhere, and I believe we could solve this if garbage cans were placed around the area.

One thing conspiring against a clean beach are the santeros who come to do their religious rituals here and leave rags, fruit and animal carcasses on the seashore.

Yesterday, a man was rubbing a white chicken over his entire body. I didn’t want to watch any longer, because I know they cut the neck at the end and spill its blood. These sacrifices don’t feature in the Animal Protection Act, when these people should, at the very least, be fined for such cruel practices.

I’ve been running into some really strange characters on our beach recently: the guy who comes to wash clothes in one of the pools (I’ve never seen him use soap). It’s funny the way he does it, he separates them and dips them in one by one, wringing them out. Then, he places them on a wall, until the sun dries them out.

Another character is the crab fisher, a man in his 60s, with skin weathered by the sun. He wears shorts and tennis shoes and spends most of his time without a shirt on and with his bald head on show.

His fishing gear is unique: a tree branch with a string attached to it, and a dry crab on it as bait. He spends all morning walking from one side to the other, trying to fish something in the pools.

This man violates other people’s personal space, as he always comes really close to where I go to bathe, and he doesn’t even ask. Sometimes, he says things to me and gives me silly compliments.

Not everything is ugly on this beach though, it’s fun to watch a 15-year-old have her photos taken; how she changes into three or four outfits in a makeshift dressing room, and then the photographer makes her pose like they do in fashion magazines.

But the thing I like the most is the therapeutic silence, being alone with my thoughts and not having anyone talk to me. However, a young man recently appeared who always makes chitchat with me.

He must be in his 30s, he has a strong build. He told me he lived in La Timba (a poor suburb), with his grandmother who recently passed away. He inherited a painting with a picture of Saint Barbara from her. The old lady was very devout, and her last wish was for him to throw the painting into the sea. Although he preferred to keep it as a memory of her.

That story moved me.

The second time we met, he didn’t stop talking. First, he asked me advice about either taking a job in the sugar harvest – because it pays 5000 pesos per month -, or clean cars in front of a dollar store instead.

Then, the invites came: go diving at the Marina Hemingway, stay a night at a hotel in Varadero…

He said he spoke to a fortune-teller who predicted his future for 25 CUP. She advised him to let his hair grow out and have dreadlocks, because he will meet a foreign woman this way who will take him out the country…

The young man continued to spin dream after dream, in a Russian roulette of fantasy. That’s when I decided to leave, he had my head spinning.

Are people going mad because they’re hungry and in need?

Read more from the diary of Irina Pino here.



Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

Irina Pino has 270 posts and counting. See all posts by Irina Pino

One thought on “Strange Characters on the Beach

  • Irina – I always enjoy reading your diary posts – please keep up the good reporting and the attached photos

    Dick – Cape Coral, Florida

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