I’m from Havana


Havana, my city, that property that shares this scribe with at least a couple of million and something else, is five hundred years old. The obvious motif ignites the engine of words and there we go to the remembrance, with some counting, and even the future, to add in the stew.
I have the joy of being born and raised in Havana. Said because, seen in perspective and even if it is an absolute consequence of chance, I am glad to be a capital. At that time, after the occurrence of one more of those horrific events of bureaucratic reminiscences named as the new administrative political division, ours was called Havana City.
The importance of such a puerile event, being a habanero, reached its first dimensions of importance, albeit with little joy, when I spent my years of military service. There, although habaneros abounded (I mean, the habaneros of the capital, because the other Habaneros, almost entitled to the provincial lineage, came from a site eternally condemned to the inferiority called “Habana campo”), we also encountered for the first time countless non-capitalists. In fact, more than their provincial Gentiles, the names of Los Palacios, Sandino, Quivicán, Goira and San Antonio appeared to us for the first time in the image of their inhabitants as real, possible, living and even inhabited places.
Later, at the University, the same feeling of defending a Gentile, or rather an attitude, that of being a Habanero, took on greater vigour. In fact, in my group of twenty-one-member councils, only seven of us were from the city. This time, the process was accompanied by greater joys and charming connotations, given the eternal national struggle between Havana and the rest, that is, the “guajiros of the countryside”, even though the friends, Ciego de Avila, Santa Clara or Granma, did not classify in any way to be classified as guajiras, rather than as mortifying and laughable adjective , and although it is soon discovered that the pinareña bride has not seen a tobacco plant in her life, without the windows of the guaguas, because she has always lived on the asphalt of the head city.
Of course, it was an asphalt like a second-rate, because it was “over there.” So, the “here” showed the gifts of accents, words and even different tastes and conceptions. The added values of knowledge of the city, in those special years of bicycles and grills inhabited by beautiful girls, sometimes made us omniscient Virgils, knowers and guides of every hellish or heavenly circle in the city. “Ask this one, who is from Havana,” was a common phrase in the face of some geographical doubt.
Being a Habanero, moreover, and here there are divine (and surely demonic) interventions, it also involved a bet of the soul. The fact, a decision where only the most remote and powerful deities have competence, is the choice of the ball team to be followed for life and hopelessly, despite all the regrets. Following the diabolical team, always chosen and always doomed, representing the capital, is not an act to be taken lightly. Call yourself Havana, Havana City or the end, and hopefully forever, industrial rescue, such a decision has cost this scribe the same bottomless bitterness as joys of cosmic dimensions.
I am one of the lucky ones you saw live, on a tiny black-and-white screen surrounded by furious industrialists who almost blew up the room, Augustine Marquetti’s mythological home run that gave the Blues a national championship after thirteen long years, my age at the time. It was the first time in my life that MY team was winning and it was an unspeakable joy. Something like this happens now. Industrialists born in 2010, or a little earlier, have never seen their team win or at least did not experience it consciously. Fortunately, life then gave me the chance to see the blues succeed several times (and also the suffering of seeing them lose their minds, often when they were already playing the championship with their hands) in the 1990s and early 2000s. It may mean little, but having seen Medina, Marquetti, Vargas, Padilla, Germán, Javier, the first villain play a year and then, deserved prize, championship decision-winner Enriquito Díaz (and then Tabares, Mayeta, last warriors of a lineage of glories that seems to be extinguished), was an unspeakable party.
Being born in Havana also implies recognizing it, as its own part, in the many songs and poems, our and foreign, that have been written to it or where it is mentioned. It still makes me smile at the inimitable vocal guapería of the great Oscar Valdés when he claims, almost speculated, that “eh, uh, I’m from Havana!” And then, to leave no room for doubt, the atrocious rhythm of Irakere’s metals reaffirms it every time the chorus is repeated. Some minimal, almost childish, but also tangible pride emerges when Joaquin Sabina sings: “I have cried in Venice, I have lost in Manhattan. I’ve grown up in Havana, I’ve been an outing in Paris. Mexico haunts me, Buenos Aires kills me.” Although in his case, of course, Jaén’s skinny finishes the stanza saying “but there is always a train that flows into Madrid”. The city, from the verses, is also hurt in the sore claim of Carlos Varela, when he almost pleaded, “Habáname”; floats in Gerardo Alfonso’s ungrateful white sheets; or gives in and confesses to the never-cured diagnosis of Juan Formell’s genius when he dictates that “Havana can’t take it anymore.”
Being born anywhere also brings with it that you have to take over sites, that memories have geographies of their own, that there are places where there were names, events and people that make them relevant. There are few borrowed paradises, four walls for glory, which thanks to the generosity of friends this editor was able to bless with his loves. Some streets, some parks, have footprints of women, bodies and lips that occurred, ended or even never were. Some schools take care of the genesis of knowledge, destinations, friendships and loves in their classrooms and corridors.
My own Havana is that of my children’s street, eden of home runs and goals. It’s that of teenage discoveries, moving and new neighborhood, where something from today’s adult really started flourishing, and building professions, friends and dreams. It is that of the endless Malecon, threshold or fence as you look, that separates us from the sea and is offered as a box to see the best sunsets or as the last argument before the most angry and ferocious tides. There, on the wall where we were once wet by a kiss or a wave, and even a jealous reef was bitten a naked and sneaky love, some piece of living stone, a piece of city, belongs to every habanero or habanera. My Havana is the grateful hatred of the endless and dirty portals of the roads of Monte or Ten October, where there are no trees (except the logs that point to exhausted ceilings), and where still too much light rises other walls with dust, as Prophesyed by Eliseo Diego. My Havana are the shy cobblestones that still in some streets of Vedado defeat the asphalt, escort solitudes, written pages and women next door, waist in hand. My Havana is that of the silence of the early mornings, that of the terrible and rude bulla, that of the crushing sun, that of the deficiencies and dirt and repeated absurdities almost hopelessly. A city where it is inhabited is a long inventory, growing over the years, of places that are no longer there, of names gone and empty and also of those who, almost as oneself, remain in desperate resistance.
Five hundred years later, the angel of this city, that impalpable but true magic where people and stones are mixed into amalgamation, luckily he is still alive. He limping a little of one of his wings. The one where he charges the desidia, the shadows, the evils and the dark that have accumulated. In the other, it still nests joy, hope, faith for tomorrow. Let us all, and for the good of all, put some of our own light on the wings of Havana. Perhaps we are still in time for us to achieve, with sheer clarity, to lift the flight again.

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