The Butter of Discord

In 2000, my friend Filiberto began renting the top floor of his house in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood to tourists. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 April 2020 — Starting in 2000 my friend Filiberto began renting the top floor of his house in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood to tourists. Fortunately, although he does not live in a tourist area, he finds customers who are looking for tranquility, away from the bustle of Old Havana or El Vedado. He has a relative in Turin who takes care of recommending Italians, preferably families, not interested in the sex market.

When his son Yuri was 12, he surprised him one morning spreading thick layers of butter on the rationed bread. The firstborn had been baptized with this name because he was born the same day as Gagarain, the memorable Russian cosmonaut who discovered that the earth was blue.

On that morning in 2003 when Yuri was discovered in flagranti, Filiberto said to him, “Put it down, boy, that butter is for the tourists.” The response of the then 7th-grader was devastating: “Fuck it Pop, you’re just like Fidel Castro.”

Yuri is now about to turn 30 and lives with his pregnant wife in his father’s house. At last Saturday’s breakfast, which, according to the family rules was Yuri’s to prepare, the cosmonaut’s namesake served not only butter, but also the cheese and ham jealously hoarded in the refrigerator.

Filiberto sat, as is his custom, at the head of the table and with all the authority that still remains to him asked: “What is the meaning of this?”

After a few tense seconds of silence, the one who spoke was Filiberto’s wife: “Beto, if we wait for the Italians to return, all that will spoil.”

As if they had come to a previous agreement, Yuri added: “That’s why we have toilet paper and soap in the bathroom,” while the future mother joked wryly: “But you’re the one who decides what to do, father-in-law.”

Filiberto tells me that, absurd as it may seem, the first thing that came to mind was to ask himself what Fidel Castro would have done in those circumstances, but he decided to respond with a gesture, rather than with words. He took the table knife and spread a thin layer of butter on his scrap of bread.

When he was clearing the table, he managed to say: “Save something, just in case.”


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