Ein Gastbeitrag von Elodie Grethen auf Englisch:
Part I, Havana
Havana, late at night. The first thing you notice: the humidity. The second thing you notice: there is almost no light on the streets and there is absolutely no advertising. Not a single one. No neon lights, no huge billboards with naked women trying to sell you shampoo (or beer if you live in Austria). What you see, is the face of the Che and Cienfuegos when your taxi drives by the Plaza de la Revolución. On almost every wall are painted revolutionary slogans. Patria o Muerte.
In the morning, we leave the casa – our private accommodation. After 30 seconds outside, an old man comes to us: “de qué país?”. We will hear that more than a hundred times.
I think what we experience that very first day is a kind of culture shock. We’re back in 1960. Old timers, colonial buildings, colors, people, music everywhere. The whole city is an open living-room.
The Cubans live, dance, wait (a lot), talk (also a lot) on the streets. You are a spectator of their all-day life in all its contradictions: Habana Vieja, between glory and misery; Buena Vista Social Club and Taylor Swift on every screen, old Russian cars and brand new smartphones; traditionalism and beautiful transgenders in Vedado. But the city confronts you with your own cultural contradictions and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the consumerism of the younger generations – or at least the need of it – means for us, young Europeans who have it all.
In Havana and every touristic place in Cuba, old men will wait for tourists a cigar in their mouth and ask them for one CUC to have their picture taken. The tourists will have their perfect cuban picture to show and the Cubans will get money of selling a cliché. I was a bit conflicted about it, but that guy came to me, posed and refused any money. He just wanted to have his picture taken.
Cuban people really drive those old cars. You can’t get any spare parts, so more than often they use wood to replace missing pieces. Most important: the USB-port.
Part II, To the middle and back
After a few days in the capital, we leave for Santa Clara, not knowing what to expect from a student city. Somehow we spend the night at a drag show, surprised to see such an event in a country where many of the fundamental rights are not respected.
The audience cheers, laughs, applauses and puts money in the cleavage of the performers. After that day, will start two weeks of packing and unpacking: small villages, beautiful Trinidad, French Cienfuegos and her weird shaped cell phones, deserted beaches, national parcs, the bay of Pigs, amazing Viñales. We will meet crazy taxi drivers, a lot of German tourists, too many cockroaches, generous hosts with whom we will have or at least try to have conversations about their life in bad Spanish. Andrei, who wants to leave to Canada someday; Alexi who laughs at me, when I tell him that we only have one day of “military service” in France – it’s two years in Cuba; Georgina who tries to sell us every tours she’s getting a percentage for; Suri who doesn’t earn enough to meet ends and taught us how to belly dance on reggaeton, old people who just wink and smile at you and who make up for each time you’ve been ripped off.
Cubans are not too strict on rules while driving. We made an u-turn on the highway and when one of us asked if it was allowed, Juan answered “En Cuba, todo es posible”.