Cuba and the Big Yellow “M”

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Something that's missing  in Cuba is a draw for some visitors.
Something that’s missing in Cuba is a draw for some visitors.

HAVANA TIMES — In her native English, she told me that, in Cuba, she had not yet seen a single big, yellow “M”. “No, we haven’t got any of those,” I replied without thinking as I gave her back her camera, after taking a picture of her standing in front of Havana’s Capitolio building.

Though I speak English fairly well, I did not understand what she had meant with “big yellow M”. I had already replied on reflex, however.

My pride and my uncertainty were at a stand-off. I had to find out about that “yellow M” somehow, without appearing to be ignorant.

We continued to walk slowly down the street as we talked about the history, style and charm of a number of buildings on Prado Street. We spoke of Havana’s leading ballet venue, the Gran Teatro, and about the Inglaterra and Telegrafo hotels.

I was constantly on the lookout for any opportunity to dispel my doubt, but it hadn’t yet arrived.

She told me where she was from: Canada. “This is the second time I come to Cuba and everything seems very interesting to me, especially the people and old American cars.”

Havana, she said, seemed like a Hollywood set to her.

“Cuba is frozen in time, in the 1950s,” she would say to me, and I could only agree with her.

But none of the interests she shared with me answered the question I still had, until I asked the reason she had come back to Cuba, to which she replied:

“In addition to what I’ve told you, because of something that caught my eye the first time I came, that you don’t have any McDonald’s ads around the city.”

“Have I come just before things start to change?” she asked me.

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

11 thoughts on “Cuba and the Big Yellow “M”

  • June 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

    It is not what you or I want that matters. It is what Cubans want. They just want to choose. The tourists, by the way, will still come.

  • June 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I think you are missing the point that most of the tourists who go to Cuba do so either to see a country that is different politically and hasn’t been Americanized. If the Cuba you want to see with a Starbucks next to the Walmart on every corner happens, I reckon three quarters of the revenue from tourism will be lost. Add to that an increase in violence and corruption and you can kiss the other quarter goodbye. Who will want to go to Cuba from Europe or Canada when they can go on holiday to cheaper places with the same McDonalds and Starbucks.

  • June 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Ya’ think? You have clearly never seen or smelled the exhaust from the old American cars still in use in Cuba. You also have never seen the black smoke belted from the smokestacks of Cuba’s 60 year-old oil refineries.

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