Alejo Carpentier and Enrique Núñez Rodríguez

By: Alejo Carpentier

Alejo Carpentier

Two visions of Havana are incorporated into this capital and birthday dossier. The first is a brief but vivid Habanero portrait, from the childish remembrances of one of our greatest writers. The other, the friendly personal metamorphosis of a “guajiro” of Burning of Goins, contaminated by osmosis of the secondary characters that somehow define habaneros citadinos. With these texts by Alejo Carpentier and Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, we offer two more candles to the birthday cake of our city.

Havana of my childhood… (Fragments)

La Habana de mi infancia…
La Habana de mi infancia…

Havana of my childhood was a city of chimes and chimes, rattlesnakes, cowbells, shears and shears, bells, cathedral boards. Cascabeles of the colleras of horses and mules pulling their wagons, wagons and cargo wagons, road of the old city, descending from the high, then remote, of the Hill and Jesus of the Mount; bells of the mules of charcoal carts and bells of buffoons who rolled in car-ferloped shops of canaries lace; cowbells that were brought from their paddocks, at dawn, to return to them at sunset; bus bells that accompanied his rolling with the sound – iron in pedquin stone – of the horseshoes of the shot; bells that dialogued, in maitines, masses and vigils, from the almost village parish of St. Nicholas, near my house, with the noble “church of the foundation” of the Holy Spirit, near the masts of the port. Small tropes of goats and goats – antlers, udders, bleating – passed through Maloja Street, driven by the grinder of knives and scissors that tripped his caramillo mixolidio, on the way to a nearby colt, uniquely open among constructions, whose remains, safeguarded by unscathed lawsuits of succession, still survive.
With all this, we had the colonial blacksmiths adorned with horse heads, silver, in the arch of the entrances to the courtyard of the manures and fodder, where the animals waited their turn, next to the area always somewhat fabulous – half dark, half burned – of fires, anvils and bellows. Blacksmiths that, in many cases, were also a car train and steed rental office, like a, well-furnished hay, to espartos and cane leaves that, in the heart of Havana, opened in Colón Street, a few meters from a newly paved Paseo del Prado that, therefore, was unfailing to gualdrapeos of lucimiento…
They subsisted in that city, the shop inherited from colonial days, which was merely a house on the ground floor, without stained glass windows or windows, where some wedding dress, mounted on mannequin of melindroso ademán, was displayed in the light of a window, while, in the other, the last issues of Le Chic Parisien were held, in sample of good see, with their golden letters on the cover of red cardboard… The small haberdashery offered its mother-of-pearl or bone buttons; the tailor, climbed on his table, escorted by huge scissors, worked in the living room of his abode; Palmists and cartoonists had professional plaques on their doors, such as doctors or lawyers. And in houses where the anguish for the future requested remedies more immediate than the possible relief of a sobering prediction, snails, figulins, necklaces, small swings, lightning or sword saints, virgins of the moon or waters, which I looked at as works of a strange, mysterious industry, since their toys – and there everything seemed toy – were not given to children and could not even be contemplated for a long time since something was in them , something true, rare, remote, that disturbed the elderly, causing them to hasten the passage, suddenly, before the hand that, cluttering the orderly, laid a plow of lead where before it had been a copper crown finished buying by a woman of penitent habit, with orange code on the purple robe.

Taken from Alejo Carpentier: Count of abodes, Havana, Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2017.

My Memoirs of Havana (Fragments)

Mis memorias de La Habana (Fragmentos)
Mis memorias de La Habana (Fragmentos)

And the first train journey to an unknown destination, between sips of Jupiña and dreams of conquest. And Havana, that first a lightning bolt, far away; and then those buildings, through whose windows we imagined fantastic stories of adult language, violence and sex. And the pregones of that time, offering us fresh fish, fisherman, or rack nut, with a schnappsy and operatic voice.
Only by writing the memoirs does one come to understand the importance of having conversed with the Knight of Paris, as habanero as the walls. And writing the memoirs is that one knows that Havana ached, on lonely nights; and that the elevators smelled like Hiel de Vaca de Crusellas; And that people would say go and come; and that a U4 tram (Beach – Central Station) was the return home, among friends arriving at the terminal, bringing us the news of the last death or gossip of the girl who had lost her virginity at the exit of the Lyceum dance.
They were the early days of an imperceptible transit that was turning us, inexorably, into habaneros. Gradually we were joining this city outside the beginning and increasingly our and endearing. Although, for the intramural borns, we were still as cool as that first day when we were amazed at the bather of the Truss Jantzen, who splashed us all as he threw himself, in a nail of lights and movement, from the top of the Partagás Bar towards the Central Park. A Central Park that, in December, smelled of roasted chestnuts.
We already knew all the guaguas routes. The corner winemaker calls us by name. And the postman didn’t feel so sorry that he couldn’t deliver the letter to us that he was starting to space himself. Incredibly, we applauded rage when Sagita Hernandez hit a home run to give Havana victory, even if deep down we still thought we were sympathetic to Cienfuegos.
To graduate from habaneros, we only lacked the sacrilege of supplanting the afternoon meal for the latte and buttered bread of breakfasts; bathe in the morning, before leaving for work, instead of in the afternoon, as is done in the rest of the country. And we did.
One day I was returning from a long holiday, and as I approached the bay tunnel, I sensed that rare feeling that until then I had only felt before the arrow pointing, on the road of Sagua, the endearing distance: “Burned of Goines 22 km”. A kind of tachycardia, kinder than annoying, made me exclaim:
–We’re coming home!

Enrique Núñez Rodríguez
Enrique Núñez Rodríguez

Taken from Enrique Núñez Rodríguez: The neighbor of the basses. 99 new chronicles (Juventud Rebelde 1987-2002), compilation of Tupac Pinilla, Havana, Unión Editions, 2014.

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