Tourist Tales from Cuba
Vincent Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — Tall, lanky and with a Hollywood “doll face,” only her fast walking — when she was alone — diminished any of the elegance of Jane, “the pretty American,” as my wife and I christened her in the end. This was after realizing her value as a person and feeling some of her frustration when it came time for her to leave Cuba.
When I met Jane, she was visiting our country for the first time accompanied by her mother. As a teacher in the bilingual educational system in California, it was easy to speak with her. She asked about everything with the greatest delight and amazement, without showing any complex – something very gratifying to me. A few days later she returned to the United States with the promise to hurry back, and so she did.
I was unaware of what was behind her special interest in Cuba other than her getting to know the culture, which excited her so much. To add to the confusion, when she returned she came with another person, a friend, who at first I thought was her boyfriend.
The true story behind it all was different, as was revealed over the days that followed.
Jane made good on her promise to bring me some Newsweek magazines, which were handed to me by the apparent boyfriend, though I never saw him again.
Then appeared the man of our story, a fellow who himself was as tall and lanky as Jane. He was a musician, according to him, and it immediately became clear that he was the reason for the presence of the pretty young American in Havana.
I can’t say that Ormari demonstrated himself to be rude or impertinent with me. In his presence, I too maintained a friendly distance in my role as a friend and the chosen partner for each day’s cultural excursions, as requested by the warm-hearted California teacher.
Actually she was from the Philippines, which was the reason for her well-pronounced Spanish that had been learned from her parents, though she had a mother with a German last name.
She lives in Fountain Valley, a small town surrounded by fields of strawberries, near San Diego, in the south of the state known as being the richest and most populated in the United States.
We visited almost all of the museums of Havana, including the Dance Museum sponsored by the National Ballet of Cuba, which aroused a special interest on the part of the American.
She didn’t miss her encounter with “strawberry and chocolate” at the Coppelia outdoor ice cream parlor, with photos included. She and the Cuban also had dinner in my humble room in Centro Havana and I too shared a meal at Ormari’s house, in another simple room but in Old Havana.
The controversial part of all of this was that I never heard any singing by this musical artist who was “in love.” Nor did I see a single musical instrument among any of his things. All of this only increased my suspicions about the authenticity of this “musician.”
In the evenings we would often meet with them and other friends — Jane with her billfold in hand — drinking mojitos in Obispo Street bars.
Sometimes I was accompanying them because the American insisted on my presence, though those outings began to really annoy me. She would hold a conversation with me, distant from the jokes and laughter of Ormari and his buddies, who were all concentrated on keeping track of cocktails they had ordered, gesturing the number to the bartender on duty. Jane couldn’t understand what was happening, though I could. But, given the situation, I was compelled to silently restrain my outrage.
Each Mojito served meant another dollar secretly traveling into the pocket of the man Jane had chosen as her possible life partner.
I talked with my wife about this matter in addition to other observations, feeling the temptation to alert our friend as to what was going on. “She’s in love,” my wife advised me, “she’s not ready to understand; so in the end things would turn sour between all of us. She’s leaving and he’ll stay here. Let’s leave it at that.”
Jane spent a long time in Cuba. She later returned and promised to come back once again. Fortunately she didn’t. I think that eventually, reflecting on a beach on the Pacific California coast, she found the secret to her problem: There wasn’t any music, and much less love.
A good while later Ormari happened to walk past me on the Malecon seawall accompanied by another tall and beautiful woman – unmistakable Anglo in appearance. Neither of us made the slightest gesture of greeting or identification.
When this story that I’m telling happened, there wasn’t any public email service in Havana. I had to turn to the traditional mail to send a New Year’s message to Jane. I bought a postcard that had on it one of those masterful landscapes imagined and meticulously painted by Tomas Sanchez, who at that time still enjoyed official recognition in our country.
There was the immense sea and a small green island in the center. Jane was delighted to receive my card, but I felt one of those deep sorrows you can never forget when I read her response:
I very much appreciate the postcard. It was very inspiring for me. Although I remember you fondly, I hope that you find a way to come here, because as much as I would like to, I will never return there again. I think I got my answer. But tell me, why didn’t you warn me?”
To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write: [email protected]