HAVANA TIMES — It’s 9 in the morning. Obispo street, in Havana’s old town, is seeing one of its busiest mornings. Workers, tourists, students, artists and beggars are its main witnesses.
A mother carries a baby that didn’t sleep well the night before (or had any breakfast that morning) in her arms. Her face is expressionless. She has one hand to her nose and the other outstretched. She doesn’t understand that her mother is training her to beg for money.
They advance slowly down the street, step by step. The girl goes first, then the woman: “A dollar, sir, to buy the kid some food.”
I am right behind them, following their steps without them noticing.
At the corner, the mother puts down the child to have a rest. A dirty handkerchief falls from the girl’s hand onto the ground. I pretend not to notice. A dog barks insistently at them, but the owner brings the situation under control. They have only managed to panhandle a single dollar and they have to keep going.
A tourist and his wife walk past her. She lunges her dirty hand towards the foreigner’s elbow.
“Friend, five dollars to buy some milk for the child. She didn’t have breakfast today, plees.”
The tourist’s quick hand intevenes. He takes pity on the woman and searches for five dollars. He gives it to her.
The body, spirit and consciousness of the beggar paint a smile across her face. She thanks the tourists and continues on her way. I part with them here.
In the afternoon I see just as many beggars walking down the street. She, however, is no longer there. Her work for the day had finished.
I arrive at Parque Central. They’re all there. I see them from where I’m standing. The child is playing with a rag doll. The mother is sitting on the bench closest to the corner, knocking back and hugging a bottle of rum.