A Stroll Through Centro Havana

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Walking in Centro Havana.

HAVANA TIMES, April 6 — It has been a while since I’ve walked through here. The only door opens onto the street where people hang old shoes, lots of different types. That’s why curiosity had overcome me.

I went up closer to look at this dimension of time reflected in a work of art emerging out of deep human misery.

In a small space, dilapidated and dark, an old man almost timeless and broke, seemed to be confronting the curse of the devil himself…

“These are for recycling,” he said, even before I asked. He spoke in a low voice, perhaps because of the surprised expression on my face.

The old man tried to get up from among the numbers of shoes, some smelly, to come over to greet me, but perhaps his trouble with getting around prevented him. It was a confirmation of what I suspected.

He continued talking, saying, “I piled them up,” as he pointed to the pairs underneath him, hinting at the implicit story associated with each of the shoes.

I felt a deep communion with the past, with memories and desires that reappeared unexpectedly, now at a stop, suspended in view of everyone as a great work of conceptual art, admired by some and disliked by others, but in the end, fragments or footprints made in the souls of people over time.

I turned to look around at what I had forgotten for a moment and slowly I walked up the street, distancing myself from there and its austere inhabitants.

I was thinking whether recycling might be a euphemism for that old man when in fact he was collecting the now rare objects that once gave stability and strength on the ground to other pedestrians.

I always walk around in Centro Habana, because it is one of Cuba’s most densely populated municipalities, it is where we see the convergence of habits, customs, traditions, etc. that are as interesting as they are implausible.