Cuba and Cuba / Regina Coyula

Photo: Katerina Bampaletaki

Yesterday, two pleasant women from Madrid appeared in my house. One of them follows Bad Handwriting, and the other came with her because she didn’t want to come alone. After the introductions and making arrangements with the driver of the Soviet-made Lada car that brought them, they told me they had been in Cuba since the last week of December. Fascinated by so much local color, they showed me many photos of beautiful young men with tanned skin and suggestive musculature — “Wow!” — the one who didn’t read me said she admired me (and assured me she would read me in the future without fail) — “And what a New Year’s Eve! My God!”

Laughing, I listened to their accents, the sound of it more entertaining than the details of their New Year’s Eve “a la Cubana.” But once I got used to their pronunciation and their turns of phrase, I realized that they had experienced the New Year in a country different from mine. A country with streamers, candies, grapes, champagne, live music, fireworks, and a countdown. The only thing in common was the pork and black beans.

They didn’t skip the coffee, which they found very good, but I didn’t deceive them, I told them it was mixed with a “substitute” which is added to the coffee sold in local currency. They were delighted with the experience: Cuban blogger, adulterated coffee, Soviet era car. We took several photos, including with the waiting Lada, with just enough time for them to collect their luggage and head to the airport.

I said goodbye to them with genuine sympathy and leaned into the car window to tell them there was a place they had to visit, without fail.

“Where? We’ve been to Trinidad and Varadero is the cat’s pajamas.”

“You mustn’t forget to go to Cuba.”

January 9 2012