Dmitri Prieto

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — The organization that controversially manages the nominations for the world’s “modern wonders” recently awarded Havana the title of “New Wonder City of the World.”

This Havana that I wanted for years to call my home, this Havana where I studied at its University and where I’ve already worked for a fair bit… this Havana that I like less and less every day.

As a teenager, as a young man, in the middle of the “Special Period” (economic crisis starting in the early 1990s), I used to wander down its streets and the streets used to talk to me. They spoke to me of days and nights long past, about hippy writers and rocker guitarrists, about the struggles of the working class and about student martyrs. About popular foods and dances, rumbas, religions, esotericism and sex.

That era has now ended, and that Havana has passed away, with no possible resurrection on the horizon. That wasn’t a Socialist Havana, in spite of Los Van Van – the longlasting mythomaniacs, larger than life. It was, quite simply, the city which, as poet Jesus Diaz wrote in “The Lost Words”, was once alive.

It was the same Havana that once welcomed the bearded ones, and then later hosted the disgusting and nasty liturgy of “actos de repudio” (repudiation rallies). The Havana that once had so many alternative projects, so many people who wanted and hoped for another Cuba – and so many people wishing to leave this Cuba, because the other one vanished like grains of sand between our fingertips.

The sand that then brought this mud. The time has come to pay for all the barbaric deeds that so much “well stocked idealism of that time” brought… and the price is still too high.

Reggaeton was conceived – on an open sex night – to the son “Sabado Corto”, Pablito Milanes’ hedonistic song from the ‘80s. And Silvio Rodriguez, honored with a Cuba Posible Award, taught this Havana how to break away from the impossible truth, amongst cries, amongst ideologies, revealing talent and establishing what would be this “new” trova forever.

No more trova. Fed up of upturned streets where every new construction project only leads to new potholes.

No more memories. People shout from balconies not with popular joy but out of desperation, and the flags they hang up are commercial slogans – it doesn’t matter where these flags come from, because fula (the dollar) doesn’t have a “race” nor does it imply any national identity.

I don’t have any more wishes to live here, the same wishes which gave my late parents so much grief. “Services” are offered to potential “customers” with aggressive shouts, bicitaxis pull along what remains of the city’s old streets’ warm charm, and the new generation takes over with their Reggaeton that the pitiful minister thought was a music genre. Our “cultural avant-garde”, our “intellectuals” were stupid enough to oversee that there was something to save, beyond the mummified relics of an ideology in power… although maybe they weren’t complete idiots, just run over doves…

The sad work of that Eusebio hellbent on rescuing the disaster, brings tears to my eyes when I watch the TV, imprisoned by the illness that afflicts his body, and imprisoned by the disease that eats away at all of Cuba. Eusebio Leal, the hero of so many restorations. A controversial man, questioned by many, by my family and even by myself. What an abyss lies today between his faith and the reality of his beloved city..

Today, Havana is silent. You wouldn’t be able to hear its voice anyway with so much reggaeton about. Its streets haven’t said anything to me since the darkest ages.

That’s irrelevant now anyway.

The old Cuba no longer exists.

It’s an ersatz, a pure imitation, a cheap ruin that was sold off one little piece at a time.


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

11 thoughts on “I’m Liking Havana less and less

  • Your perceptions of everything were very different as a teenager. There is one thing that you cannot stop; it is change. Even if the world were frozen in time your mind cannot be, and how you perceive and understand the world cannot remain as it was. So join the club and lament about how it used to be. You know, for most people the pain fades and the good is what we remember. Better learn to embrace change. It will always be with you.

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