10 October 2014
Today, I found out, is the somethingth anniversary of Cuban
Independence. My grasp on the history is a little weak but I know it
has something to do with Carlos Cespedes freeing his slaves.
Found myself in Parque Central next to a group of loud, perpetually
shouting men. Esquina caliente! The hot corner! A group of baseball
fans licensed to gather in the park and have heated conversations
about who the best ballplayer of all time is, or the best Cuban player
of all time, or the best Cuban of the '80s, or the best ... well, you
get the point. Nonstop, every day.
I couldn't get into the main circle so I was on the fringe with an old
beggar woman who called me a very terrible name when I wouldn't give
her money and a ragged man who insisted I take his picture.
Strolled around Habana Vieja for a bit in search of the Cadeca-Casa
del Cambio, where you go to change foreign currencies into convertible
Cuban pesos, and convertible Cuban pesos into Cuban pesos. Yes, they
have two currencies here and it gets a little confusing. The Cuban
peso is used on the streets to get cheap cigars, newspapers, street
food, etc. The convertible peso is used for your nicer restaurants,
hotels, cabs, etc. If you ever go to Cuba, get yourself some Cuban
pesos, called CUP, and spend some time in the markets buying fresh
fruit or cheap ice cream.
Anyhow, Habana Vieja is the most touristy part of Havana and as such
is full of touts. Señor! You buy cigars? Señor! You need restaurant?
"No gracias, un otra vez" (No thanks, another time) has become my
They approach and say Canada? or whatever. Nobody has pegged me as
American (Norteamericano) yet. Actually, one guy on the Malecón did
last night. As I passed, he said to his wife, "Look, honey! A North
American!" So, credit to him I guess.
One guy guessed Russian, another Italian for some reason. One guy
asked how old I was. I told him, and he said, "You're so young! You
seem ... older."