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Independence Day

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.

The hot corner

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

go-to phrase.

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."




  • Guy at Cafe Brown: Ah! Montana! (mimes lassoing a cow, then shooting a rifle) Welp.

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