A Havana New Year’s Mugging

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

Tourist taking pictures.
Tourist taking pictures. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — She’s a foreigner walking down Havana’s Cerro district, near Tulipan. She’s read in several travel books that there’s practically no violence in Cuba, so she can’t imagine a group of young people will mug her there at 4 pm.

She’s toured much of Cerro, starting at Boyeros avenue, accompanied by a Cuban artist. She takes pictures of the architecture. She’s also an artist, see.

He’s from Havana, so he’s on the alert. He feels uncomfortable and tells her friend this, minutes before three young men try to snatch the camera that hangs from her neck.

She tries to take a picture of the facade of Immaculate Heart of Maria Church when she is shoved from behind and a person tries to run away with her camera.

On the ground, she sees the lens come off the camera and roll across the sidewalk, and the kids run off with the camera body.

Ahead of her, her artist friend has been intercepted by a third kid, shy of 20.

He holds a sharp knife in his hand and threatens to kill him. He doesn’t ask for anything, not even his wallet or the bag slung over his shoulder, nothing. He’s only holding him back while his accomplices finish the job.

It’s all over in a few seconds. He’s in shock and manages only to help the girl off the ground and stop the first taxi he comes across.

They head down to the police station, without even having memorized the faces of the assailants.

When I find out about this, the first thing that comes to mind are my mother’s words of advice: “don’t get home too late on the last days of the year, people go a little crazy out on the street.”

I feel afraid.

I never go out alone in the early morning, but I do so in the afternoon. What should I do?

In recent days, I’d heard of similar incidents, but one always imagines those things only happen to other people. It’s only when it happens to a close friend that it becomes real.

We need to do something.

I don’t know whether the surveillance cameras around Havana should be put to good use, or if more police officers should be deployed in areas with higher crime rates.

All I know is that we need to do something.

26 thoughts on “A Havana New Year’s Mugging

  • The major difference being that a majority of the homeless in the U.S. choose to be homeless. There are plenty of organizations who provide housing and meals to the homeless, and even help them with job placement, however they prefer to live “freely” on the streets and feed their alcohol or drug addiction. i work closely with one such organizations, and trust me, it’s battle trying to get the homeless off the streets.

  • This is why I’m against legalizing weed! Great point though IC. Hopefully, necessary changes are inevitable as from what I see, Cuba should one day be the Isle of Smiles! May a thousand plants bloom!

  • You’re right Moses, I’ve seen far worse than this and I’m using the word ‘slave’ in a very general sense.

  • You call that a tirade? I agree with the essence of your comment. I am just not comfortable with the whole “we are slaves” reference. Ouch!

  • No society is perfect and we are slaves to whichever one we belong to in one degree or another whether we believe it or not, even we Canadians. Personally I find the point of view of this site honest and extremely informative without going over the top. Keep up the great work, as a frequent traveler to Havana I often visit your page for current news. Let’s see what tirade my comment brings.

  • Of course she has never been to Cuban’s Aduana. I mean the writer of this article.

  • I am not judging but I think some commenters fire up a joint before commenting. How else do you explain it?

  • Hollywood Moses?

  • “pity the poor homeless”? Cuba doesn’t need charity it needs trade! With Soviet subsidies one could do without accounting, the problem is the right in Venezueala, you know the gangsters… why does Hollywood Moses think we need a gun to rob our neighbours? There is a reason images depicting the human body are banned. Only the Sultans are equipped to view them? Everywhere else they’re called Latinos, in Britain they’re family doctors.

  • Do you know where Cerro is located? Not exactly on the harbour. Also Cubans don’t hate wealth. Many aspire to it but through other means than mugging. Having said that I was mugged in broad daylight in Centro Havana some years ago. This is nothing new but the incidence will no doubt increase with the increase in tourists.

  • Spaniards are White my dear don’t be ignorant racist yourself. Happy New Year!

  • Brother Stephen Boka, If you are referring to me, I have been there three times and I would feel comfortable living there. The natives are extremely friendly, sharing the little that they have with you. In Cuba, you are in no rat race like in the USA where you have to work at five and six jobs in order to make ends meet. House rent alone in the USA is a killer. There are no homeless people on the streets in Cuba just barely existing and badly in need of medical attention and searching garbage bins to survive. Pity the poor homeless people on the streets in the USA, barely dressed to cope with the winter season, eating away at what others have discarded in the so-called richest and freeest country in the world?

  • Going around el Cerro was the first mistake. Tourists in Cuba need to understand that they are seen as a privileged class by a populace that has been taught to hate and envy wealth. How else can they be kept as slaves. So, beware of the neighborhoods traveled. As a world traveler I try to stay away from the port of entry of cruise ships. Those are the areas that are most sought after by criminals. Tourists are not likely to remain to press charges and testify against assailants. Thieves are aware of this fact. So caveat emptor…

  • What in the world are you talking about!?

  • Yes. Robberies are there every where.

  • Come on Greg.
    Accept the realities. Cuba is not a great country. But United States of America is.
    Look around… See the great things americans are doing.

  • Really? That’s because you know that these robberies didn’t happen? How?

  • Let me be the first to invoke Godwin’s Law. Kennedy is unreasonably attached to his native Cuba. That’s to say that he seems unwilling to hear reasonable and valid criticism of Cuba and the Castros. Yes, they are two different things. That kind of blind patriotism is most common in fascist societies. Kennedy fails another test. Rather than intelligently defend his failed Castro regime, he childishly deflects through criticism of the US. I can’t speak for Circles Robinson, the Havana Times editor, but I am guessing that the purpose of the blog is NOT to destroy the Revolution. Besides, the Castros don’t need any help doing that.

  • You’re Spanish aren’t you? Maybe Moorish? Maybe you come from the Canary Islands? Why do you think you’re “white” and castrated? Are you Catholic? A priest perhaps? or maybe a monk? Surely you’re not the Pope? Can’t you see it’s “white” tourists who bring this racism.

  • Someone was mugged and the author cautions people to be vigilant. This is a perfectly normal op-ed piece. Politicising the normal reactions of an individual with their own opinions and fears about the matter is what is twisted. The author of the article has their own voice and could do without yet another censor; namely you. One person’s fear is not a threat to the revolution you seem to orchestrate from your comfy armchair a thousand miles away. You also proved Godwin’s law once again. Get a hobby.

  • oh for chrissake! Have you been there and seen the “success” for yourself? I really want to know.

  • What success are those? Ration cards maybe?

  • You clearly have a strong attachment to Cuba and it pains you to hear anything negative about Cuba. You are not alone. Many people are inspired by Cuba.
    I wrote about my visit to Cuba in May of 2013. I felt safe wherever i went. I was hassled by jinoteros and one member of our choir group was ripped off by a group of jinoteros. Not a big deal, but you can be sure that tourists talk about their experiences when they get home. So there is no point complaining when a Cuban talks about this. Whatever happens, word will get around.

  • Fictional journalism. Part of Miami campaign to discredit Cuba and it’s success.

  • Who said America is perfect? ….far from it. It is well known that crime in Cuba is much much lower than in the US. Indeed I feel safer on the streets of Havana than I do in Miami. But your criticism of the USA is more appropriate on another site, as this one has to do with Cuba. As for the destruction of the revolution, that is thankfully well underway. Nothing can stop that now. Unfortunately it will take many decades to correct the blight the Castros unleashed on my beloved Cuba.

    So just go back to your echo-chamber that is Cubasi where everything is just sunshine and rainbows .

  • My opinion is that you always look for the dirtiest and the nastiest things to project a sordid and negative picture of Cuba. Even, for the sake of argument, that this indeed did occur, why the great hullabaloo? This is not an every day occurrence like in the United States where a robbery is committed every five minutes? I have long detected that you and your media outlet are hell bent on destroying the good image of Cuba. I have long realized that you are very biased and anti-Cuba and that your main purpose is to destroy the Revolution. This is a New Year and you should desist from your terrorist effort of destroying the good name and image of the beautiful people and country. Your friend Moses some time ago admitted that America is not perfect, so why tarnish the name of Cuba? Why highlight a crime which was committed? If you are going to high light this crime, why not compare it to the amount which would have been committed in America about the same time/ The other day you published an article about the drought in Cuba and blamed it on incompetence. Is the drought in California due to incompetence as well? Oh! The tripe you publish on the internet to fool the gullible and those who cannot and do not think for themselves; if Hitler were to be resurrected and ruled Germany you would outclass and outshine Joseph GOEBBELS Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. I would recommend you highly for the job!!

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