I did not have Osmany’s phone numbers, just sent an email telling where I would be. It has been two days and no one has contacted me yet, I am on my own in Habana. But this is no problem. I made good friends with Spanish boys who are staying at the hotel and I took long walks in Habana Vieja and Vedado. Despite the people in the hotel and travel agencies scaring me that it is too dangerous to walk around, I did not feel like taking a cab. You truly know a city on foot and not by car, and it should not be more dangerous than in Brazil. Later I understood that, in fact, they want you to spend money on cabs so you do not get to know the Cuban reality, just the tourist parts.
It is much different from the places I have been to. Lots of people on the streets, few gates, doors and windows wide open showing the Cuban homes, music everywhere, different and loud rhythms, from inside the houses or people with musical instruments on the street. There are beautiful houses, but unfortunately falling apart, if they were restored they would have a Pelourinho (Bahia) in a larger scale. Looking up and ahead is nice, but looking down or peeking inside the houses is not good. There is much humidity and open sewage in Habana Vieja, where the people live in old and crowded houses.
In Vedado the situation is better, cleaner and more ¨modern¨. It is weird because it looks like a small town frozen in time, but it is the capital of a country, it has wide and busy avenues. The commerce (for the Cubans) reminds you of those markets from the beginning of last century, empty shelves, little variety, old and dirty. I was hungry but not brave enough to eat in those places. I am looking forward to meeting Osmany and Ana, I am not sure of what I can or cannot do here. I feel the people here are unreliable, it seems they are always trying to take advantage from you (which is totally understandable, given the situation they live), they give me wrong information and I do not know who to trust: the people from the hotel or the people on the streets.
I saw happy children playing on the streets. Once they do not have access to technology and are not afraid of violence, they are able to enjoy their childhood the way we did. There were some Cubans sitting in front of their houses chatting and listening to music, a lot of bars full of local people but no tourist. Cubans are very friendly, as I walked down the streets many stopped me to talk, blowed me kisses and called me like I was a cat, even a police officer did this. I do not understand how they realize I am a foreigner, probably by the way I speak, after all, most people are white and a lot like Brazilians: body type, clothes and attitude.
Unfortunately I had to ignore everyone who came to talk to me; I do not know whether it is true or not, but I was told that they are jineteiros and all they want is to rob or take some advantage from strangers. I was also told to be careful with the really black people, I thought this comment was so racist. After being so scared, I found it better to wait for Osmany before I talked to people.
In search for internet, I entered the best hotels in town, and to my surprise they were luxury and outstanding. A whole different world, a Cuban only goes in if he/she works there. No luck for me, some did not have access because it was Sunday and others because they lacked the card.
All over town you can see posters and billboards in honor of revolutionary men like Camilo, Fidel, Che and even Hugo Chávez. Their image is everywhere. Chávez seems to be very welcomed here, like a brother. Publicity is forbidden. On the streets you can only see facades and billboards from the government.
About the vehicles, I thought I would only find models from the 50`s or Lada, but the reality is different. There are a lot of modern American cars, and Fiat, Renault and Mercedes Car Dealerships sell for the ones with money. All the tourist buses are also modern like in any tourist city. There are gorgeous cars in good conservation, and others so old that it is not possible to understand how they still work. The vintage ones are the most charming cars. It is common to see broken cars, people pushing or fixing them.
This was my first impression alone in Cuba, after I met my friends a lot changed; some things I could understand, while others still do not make sense. As some of my Cuban friends say “It is complicated! I will not explain it because you will not understand!” In respect to some people and not to risk giving the wrong information, I will omit some things. The next posts will be about tourist information, if anyone is interested please contact me.
On my way to Cuba I spent 24hs, traveling and waiting. Brazil, Panama and Cuba have different time zones; I had to adjust my watch in each place. Inside the plane, flying over the Caribbean, I gazed at the sky and had the feeling I was upside down, the plane flew above the clouds and the color of the sky and the sea was the same, I could only tell it from the clouds on the horizon.
Translated by Lúcia Maciel
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