Thursday, January 8, 2009


Living in Havana since birth had made me too familiar with its beauty.

I took for granted its magnificent architecture, its ornate centuries old palaces, the magnificent churches and colonial buildings, the beautiful boulevards and its old fashioned sidewalk cafes, the salty mist of the Caribbean, as it furiously blasted against the old walls, the wide arcades filled with the most amusing street vendors, the intoxicating smells of Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang, its History, its charm, its never ending rhythm....

Havana was ‘my city’ and --like most of us ‘habaneros’-- I felt I owned it a

The city was a fascinating mix of our deeply rooted European influence, which was ‘alive’ in every turn of the winding streets of Old Havana, infused with a wonderful feeling of tradition and hard work --hand in hand with the modern city that grew next to the water, happy, tall, bright, sensual and filled with the unmistakable images of a tropical vibrant metropolis.

Havana was my mother’s ‘territory’ and she showed me every corner and everyone of its magic sites. Never a person to enjoy ‘the country’, she always was the consumate ‘city-girl’ and instilled in me an endless love for sophisticated big cities, always ready to be discovered.

The rest of Cuba and its landscapes were my father’s obsession. ‘His’ is the memory of the Sunday outings he insisted on taking us on when we were growing up, many of which I detested, since I would get violently car-sick, and my mother obviously disliked them as much as I did. Somehow, with the typical insolence of the very young, I was jaded and bored by so much "tropic", so much "greenery" and so "many stunning-white-sand-like-sugar beaches".

No, Cuba was not important to me when I was an adolescent ---because Paris was the city of my dreams! I dreamed of living in Paris --and had memorized the entire Michelin Guide, knowing by heart every corner of the Louvre Museum, and the location of the Nike of Samothrace ---and that of the Venus of Milo, at the end of a narrow corridor. Cuba did not interested me that much, because -I then believed- it had no mystery to offer me.

For a teenager raised on dreams for a scintillating future, fascinated by American movies and rock&roll, there was nothing exciting about the sensual swaying of old cobblestone streets, or the grayish baroque façades of Old Havana. A million of my steps were all over my city. I had walked it many times and knew by heart its twists and turns. And although it was my warm and familial coccoon, I had always wanted to fly away to the ‘allure’ of the foreign.

After all, I lived there, I was born and raised there; and beyond the travels and the adventures --whenever I returned from the exotic jaunts of my dreams-- Havana would be there. Undisturbed, filled with warmth --always welcoming. And I would live there forever! Hence, what was there to dream about?

Little did I know.