Old Windows in Havana

By Ariel Glaria

Alone. Photo: Juan Suarez
Alone. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Her name was Felicia, and she was a prostitute back when it was good business to be one in Havana. She continued to be a hooker after 1959, when all gambling establishments were shut down and prostitution was declared illegal and actively persecuted.

She lived in a balconied apartment on the corner, behind a wooden frame that held a beautiful, green piece of glasswork, still visible behind the dirt, in a room an American had bought her. Pipo the butcher and El Caña would tell this story every time we saw them emerge from the landing.

She had a son no one heard from again after he left Cuba, the only man she ever supported, they said. She was convicted to two years in prison in October of 1974, for the only practice she’s remembered for, even though she once claimed she’d been a talented skater at a club in Marianao (today reduced to rubble and a refuge for the homeless).

She came out of prison an old, toothless woman, something which made her popular among those seeking her services (who stopped hiding to go see her, at her request).

Mario, the sailor, was the one who told me Paco had put her in prison, presenting old photos of her he got a hold of from an old rival in Mariano (then converted into the new State ideology).

It was the last time I saw Mario alive. He hanged himself in January of 1981, months after Sonia, his wife, abandoned him and left for Florida on a speedboat with his kids. No funeral was held and his death was condemned by the Communist Party he had belonged to. Only a handful of neighbors and Felicia were there for the burial.

No one knows when Felicia died. In the summer of 1994, the balcony of her apartment collapsed, leaving the old, green glasswork closed forever. A short time later, the building’s main entrance was walled up and the building condemned. It is said an old access point, covered up with bricks, was discovered at the end of a flight of stairs in a neighboring tenement. Several families live there today and, as locals know, there is a room, bathed by a dense light during the day, where you can get everything from powdered milk to cheap sex.
Editor’s Note: The story and dates of the story are true; the names have been changed.