Unknown or Known?

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Scene from Old Havana.

I recently saw a film on TV that made me recall one of the most touching moments of my life. At the beginning of the last century, when many foreign actors visited the capital to participate in the Havana Cigar Fiesta  or to work on some other project. This was an opportunity to see them in person, greet them and to exchange a few words with them in the middle of the street.

It’s not that I’m a man of another era, but one day when I was walking through Havana’s Plaza de Armas, I ran into a man who was tall, with light-colored eyes and almost blond hair.  As he was impressed with the architecture of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, I could hear this stranger murmur in English, “It’s really beautiful…”

“It was built in 1772,” I told him, speaking with the pride that characterizes us when defending the history of our venerable city.

Surprised with my answer, he turned and asked me, “Do you speak English?”

“Yeah,” I replied, and we continued chatting in route to calle Obispo.

We maintained this conversation until arriving at the door of Hotel Ambos Mundos, where the room in which Hemingway used to stay in the 1930s is still conserved. Suddenly a youth boy came up to us with pen and paper in hand to anxiously request an autograph. The gentleman agreed and even gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Waiting for the man was a gigantic crowd, people of all different nationalities who were asking for his signature and signs of affection. I offered my shoulder so that he could sign any scrap of paper, though I couldn’t figure out who this person was who I’d just talked to.

Unable to place him, I discreetly whispered to one of the youths surrounding us to ask the name of this stranger.  The kid responded immediately saying, “Of course, he’s Kevin Costner.”