“Did you hear about the accident that happened on the Monumental roadway half an hour ago? Two elderly mulattos driving a beige Moskovich at high speed ran into an electrical post. They say they’re from your neighborhood.”
Jorge Milanes’s Diary
It’s 9 in the morning. Obispo street, in Havana’s old town, is seeing one of its busiest mornings. Workers, tourists, students, artists and beggars are its main witnesses. A mother carries a baby that didn’t sleep well the night before in her arms.
“What are they selling today?” asks the old woman as she hurriedly gets in line at the butcher’s. “The soy mincemeat and hot dogs,” someone replies. The butcher, who’s overheard the conversation, says in a loud tone of voice: “You don’t get any hot dogs, only the mincemeat.”
“Dear Jorge, I write you from beautiful Mexico, where I am doing my novitiate, a crucial step in my training,” my former workmate and friend Osman Aviles wrote me in an email. Osman has devoted part of his youth to the study of Cuban poets.
“I’ve always had a bicycle, but I’m in love with this particular one because it was tailor-made,” my brother Luis said to me, polishing the bike he brought from Ecuador. When he saw I was interested in the subject, he began to tell me about bicycles, cyclists and the State policy towards these in Quito.
“You’re twenty-five cents short, sir,” the cashier at Havana’s Villa Panamericana store said to me, noticing I had given her less money than I had to by mistake. I searched my wallet and pockets thoroughly and only found regular peso notes, what we refer to as “Cuban pesos” here.
We hadn’t seen one another in several years. I ran into him on Obispo street in Old Havana as I was coming out of work. We started talking after the initial surprise wore off. We talked for two hours. Among other things, he told me he’d been giving piano lessons to young people in Boyeros for ten years.
“You son of a bitch!” the young man yells, lunging at the other fellow at the crowded bus stop. “You’re the one who’s been peeping at my wife through the bathroom window for days now!” He raises a fist, ready to pound the other man’s face with all his pent-up fury.
“I have a secret I can’t tell anyone.” Saying this, Katy looks at my niece – her friend – knowingly. They are both 10. What is it?” asks Carla, trying to clear up the mystery. “No, I can’t. He made swear I wouldn’t say anything.”
When I was a teenager, I used to hear people repeat that there was no racism in Cuba. At school, teachers would insist we all had the rights, duties and opportunities. This is what I believed when I studied at the tourism entertainment school, graduated and started working.