My Visit to Cuba’s Province of Mayabeque

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — I recently paid the province of Mayabeque (formerly the eastern part of La Habana) a visit.

I was invited to a meeting of writers at the Casa del Joven Creador (“Young Artist Community Center”) located in San Jose, the province’s head municipality. Between poetry readings and book launches, we were able to take a number of strolls around town. I remember visiting the place twenty years ago. Today, my impressions are pretty much the same.

San Jose may not be considered a town because of its population, but, in terms of urban development, it does not exactly fit the definition of a provincial capital (and I can quote one of its residents, a writer we met at the gathering, so that you will not think me too harsh).

Life appears serene here. The locals seem the quiet types and aren’t prone to “boastful” displays, like people in Havana are. The general level of development and something somber in people’s behavior, however, make it difficult to get the sense of progress I felt, for instance, during my trip to Cuba’s province of Ciego de Avila.

San Jose reminds me of Havana’s municipality of Guanabacoa: rustic and simple, with vast expanses of rural areas and a not-too-sophisticated urban center.

The former province of La Habana (when the capital was Ciudad de la Habana) was once the capital’s vegetable garden. Today, its inhabitants, having been granted the status of an independent province, still carry the burden of this geographic fate.

In San Jose, I see a need for broader streets, greater commerce and more people. I also got the impression that a number of institutions lack the resources they need to function properly.

A single day isn’t enough to get a more or less accurate idea about a place. I am only sharing my impressions, and availing myself of this opportunity to thank the Hermanos Saiz Association for their hospitality.

I didn’t have a bad time, I was only a bit put off because it seems that Mayabeque has become the brother who sees how its spoiled sister, Artemisa (the other new province), is getting all of the attention from the mother homeland. I hope I’m wrong. I hope they have something in store for Mayabeque, something other than a funny aboriginal name. Only time will tell.