Yenisel Rodriguez Perez
HAVANA TIMES — El Caballero de Paris (the Gentleman from Paris) is back in Old Havana as a living statue. He has returned to alleviate the nostalgia for fabled characters that Havanans endure.
His life is a quixotic oasis in the rigid colonial history of the historic center of Old Havana.
The “Gentleman from Paris” was a man who cultivated his daily life in public spaces of the city. Some remember him as a beggar – but he wasn’t. He always reciprocated the handouts offered by passersby with his arts.
He’s remembered for his parables, his maxims and especially for those aristocratic titles that he claimed to have won in adventurous stays in Europe.
With the passage of time his fabled legacy has managed to strike a magical balance between counterculture, cynical wisdom and madness.
This is why there coexist so many ways of constructing and reconstructing his myth: as a madman who died in the psychiatric hospital due to government neglect, as a prophet/savior of Cuban identity, or as a surrealist hippie of Real Socialism.
The living statue of the Caballero de Paris comes out every morning onto the streets of the historic district to consummate his arduous fate: to immortalize the vivid image of a provocative urban myth.
He has come to replace that another statue of the Caballero…a failed statue…one that petrifies and distorts the virtuous spirit of the Havanan Diogenes.
Let’s visit him.
He lives in the streets of the historic district with other living statues. He’s waiting for us there to exchange his art for the handouts of us passersby.