My Neighborhood, My Little Country
In the bureaucratic and political jargon of my country it’s called Vibora People’s Council. It’s my neighborhood. A piece of geography, extending from Avenida de Acosta to Santa Catalina, and from the Causeway on 10th of October – once called Jesus del Monte, which the poet Eliseo Diego Rodriguez immortalized – to Mayia Rodriguez.
They form a quadrilateral seven blocks long and ten wide. There are many schools like the Institute of Vibora, now a technical and business school, the “Thomas Alva Edison” primary school and “Enrique José Varona” secondary school, once prestigious colleges. Other schools, such as “Pedro Maria”, are now dirty warehouses, and the ancient college of the “Marist Brothers” is the headquarters of the shadowy political police.
When night falls, the Calzada de 10 de Octubre, becomes a catwalk. Repressed gays hunting for a partner. Lesbians with military haircuts, who after drinks kiss desperately at the door of Pain de Paris, an exclusive cafe that takes only convertible currency. Cordova Park is perhaps the largest open-air “hotel” in Havana. Cheap sex in foreign or domestic currency, whichever. You choose your sexual preference.
Later in the morning, old men with sad faces and worn clothes form a line at the Metropolitan Bank — opposite the former home of the Counts of Parraga, today a cultural center — to collect their meager pensions. Also under the cover of darkness, thieves, robbers and voyeurs practice their misdeeds.
When the sun heats up, the nightcrawlers go to bed. And the street is colored yellow, red and brown, the colors of uniforms for secondary, primary and high school. Rushing people gather at bus stops to board lines P-6, P-8, P-9 and P-10, and to try to get to work on time.
The old men who in were line at the bank at dawn are now the first to buy the solitary 80-gram roll that the ration book allows us.
These seven by ten blocks make up the Vibora neighborhood. My home town.
Translated by: Tomás A.