The great actress Greta Garbo knew to retire when it was time, in the splendor or her beauty and at the height of her fame. A very intelligent choice which many don’t make, led astray as they are by their ego.
But today it is not the great actress nor the stubborn that concern me. It is that yesterday I came across a document from the old store El Encanto, which still lives in my memory, and I was shocked. I remembered and I always will, most of all how their slogan marked the beginning of each season, how we all had to comply, no matter if it was cold or hot: “It is summer at El Encanto,” or “It is winter at El Encanto.” This marked the season for the whole of Cuba, regardless of the weather report.
When I first arrived in Paris, in the seventies, people took me to the Galerías Lafayette, and I experienced a feeling of dizziness, not pleasant for me, because I had come from my planet, where the streets were dark, there were almost no cars, and the display windows of the stores were decorated with streamers and books on Marxism. I said to the person who had taken me, get me out of here because I am very tired. But are you dazzled by this store, she asked me? Yes, it’s very beautiful, I answered, but on my planet we had El Encanto. Then she said, what you are is very chauvinistic.
Today, looking at the photos of that great department store (the first in Latin America and possibly in the world, in those years) with its elegant salons, exclusive clothes, charming and well dressed employees, as well as their spectacular Christmas decorations inside the store, on the façade and in its windows, something I had never though of occurred to me: At least El Encanto disappeared in full bloom, as the actress of yore. It did not suffer the shame that of the other major Havana stores such as End of the Century and Flogar, just to name a few, that time, apathy and neglect have made squalid, turning them into caricatures of what they once were.
October 16, 2010