Pinar del Rio: The Ravishes of Time (II)

Vicente Morin Aguado

Keeping time in Pinar del Rio.
Keeping time in Pinar del Rio.

HAVANA TIMES — Though Pinar del Rio’s El Globo proved a safe and quiet environment, I could not help but notice that the hotel is in shambles. There is no running water in the rooms, many suites are closed and the food offer is extremely limited. The staff is immensely kind, but there is very little they can actually do to make one’s stay more pleasant.

The building itself used to be rather pretty, its first and second floors built in the eclectic architectural style so common in Cuba in the early 20th century. A third floor, built at a later date, showing geometric lines referred to as “modern” (accentuated in the modernity by acrylic window panes) breaks entirely with the earlier architecture and ruins the building completely.

See Part I

El Globo gives you the impression that it is about to collapse, but it still has some years left in it. As proud as in the old days, a large clock punctually announces the time of day from a tower, located at the corner with Marti St., the city’s main artery. It gives Pinar del Rio the air of a large town.

My last night in Pinar was rather unpleasant. It had been raining for two days straight, and I had slept in the coolness afforded by these relentless showers. When it stopped raining, however, not even a gust of wind broke the stillness of the night.

There was an AC in my room. I asked the hotel clerk to turn it on, but he told me he couldn’t, saying that “only the manager can authorize me to do so.” This lofty individual, as you can imagine, was not at the hotel this late at night.

I opened the door to the balcony, hoping to let some fresh air into the room, to no avail. The draft, vigorous the previous nights, didn’t make itself felt, not once in the night. Then came the usual, wee-hour reflections, the sweat, the getting out of bed and laying back down, all of it colored by thoughts of my trip back to Havana in the morning.

I could clearly hear the voices of the local youth, walking down the city’s main street, right beneath my balcony. First, a barrage of teenagers, speaking in high, inebriated voices, as is expected of them at night, festive girls and some disappointed souls squabbling over some petty debt or other.

Later in the night, as the more hardened drinkers stumbled back home, the soundscape began to change, until only male, effeminate voices could be heard. Fresh squabbles, now with slightly more old-fashioned phraseology, began to reach me. Only the tolling of a nearby bell punctured my reveries, announcing the inexorable passage of time.

Bored, unable to fall asleep, I would look at my watch again and again: two a.m., two bell tolls, two thirty, another bell toll, and so on and so on, until the sun came up.

Morning had arrived. I left my room at El Globo and, before heading for the bus station, I stopped to cast a careful look at the clock that had accompanied me in my wakefulness. The hands of the hour-piece moved with precision. A bell above the roof of the tower showed me the singular mechanism that had made my interminable night at a totally unventilated hotel room, during a hot, tropical night, a little more bearable.

Standing perpendicular to the tip of the bell, a serrated wheel controlled the clapper beneath, which would strike the carillon on its outer surface. When I returned the key to my room, the hotel manager told me that an old man, a master clockmaker, kept the artifact in shape, maintaining this antique clock which was the pride of the town – city, I mean.

I didn’t tell the manager, or chieftain of El Globo, about my restless night, not wanting to get the night watchman in trouble. Besides, I would probably have to stay at the hotel again and, to quote Lorca once more, “the light of reason compels me to be discrete in my pronouncements.”

My return trip was nearly identical to my journey over from Havana some days before. They almost carried me like a baby to the bus, having produced some money rather than a ticket. I didn’t even have time to go to the bathroom before departing.

I shall go back to Pinar del Rio. The tolling bell of El Globo beckons me. At La Marina restaurant, four Chinese, Wahson-brand fans await my return.
Vicente Morín Aguado.  [email protected]