Different Strokes in Havana / Regina Coyula

I would like not to commit a blunder and put myself in tune with the times, and instead of talking about layers of the onion, say that any city, any society, resembles also a multi-system disc where the tracks spin and re-write themselves without affecting the various files among them.

After this rhetoric, Havana these days is a city whose manifest decay has cross-dressed into a vintage beauty; tourists, with cameras that a Cuban doctor could not buy with an entire year’s salary, wander around taking a picture of a ’54 Chevrolet here, a collapse there or a smiling, chubby, dark, cigar-smoking woman with the sound track from Chan Chan or Guantanamera.

Another refined and glamorous Havana perfumes the air conditioning of trendy new places open to the heat (warmth, no need to exaggerate) of the Raulist reforms. With restaurant licenses, operating in practice as bars open until dawn, the celebrity has found there an ideal space; also firm managers, successful private workers.  Foreigners do not make up the majority in these places.  A happy and unworried gathering of women without any ugly, fat, old or poor ones, accurately calculate at a glance the value of their potential companions.

My son, a very worthy specimen of masculinity, was “disqualified” at Esencia Habana, one of these places in Vedado where, for a bottle of Smirnoff vodka that sells in a Miami liquor store for 20 dollars, they charge without a blush 63.2 CUC (more than $65 US).

A friend of Rafa who lives there came for four days to the wedding of a friend of his girlfriend.  It was the girlfriend’s first visit after her departure as a girl, and she was reunited with her childhood friends, almost all university students, and they suggested the place.

Rafa was the rare one with his casual attire among those long-sleeved shirts tucked into the pants, the dress shoes and the catwalk dresses.  The girls danced to the rhythm of Justin Bieber, Pitbull or Gente D’Zona, while they made faces before their latest generation iPhones and Samsungs whose only advantage in Cuba is the flash.  My son felt the separation, but it did not matter to him because he and his friend had a ton of things to talk about.

They next day they were to meet again, this time at a more calm place but based on the advice of the friends of the girlfriend, they went to Espacios, another of these places in the “miky” fashion*.  Rafa said goodbye after a while: “Bro, it’s not my scene, I’m leaving.” His friend understood, and I, though they who aspire to a life of luxury may criticize me, I felt very comfortable with the idea that, in the rewritable disc of Havana, my son is in the file of the rare.

*Translator’s note: A comment from a Lonely Planet site defines “miky” (or “miki”) as follows: Miki is the opposite of “freaky” (friki). It’s Cuban youth slang for go-with-the-flow youth following trends, meaningless fashion music (salseros, regetoneros etc) and are not really “special” or doing anything thoughtful. Freakies on the other hand see themselves as “deeper”, with opinions, “quality” and more rebellious. Mikis are deemed by their “adversaries” are shallow, uneducated and daft, while freakies are seen by mikis as snobbish intellectual brats.

Translated by mlk.

17 December 2013