Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Vignettes

You can see them every day in the heart of the Old Havana: sitting in a small corner in Mercaderes close to Plaza Vieja, around the walls of the old Cathedral of Havana, or like this one that I caught in the entrance of La Casa de Obispo (The House of Bishop, named after the street), one Sunday morning in early March 2009.

Old vintage pictures in modern times, you can see them coming early in the morning and catch the same corner day after day, dressed in flamboyant colors and with the inseparable cigar in their hands. Everybody knows who they are, what they are doing, what is their meaning. From the police who stroll every corner of the Boulevard with his blue uniform to Eusebio Leal, the famous historian of the Old Havana.

They are part of the touristic picture of the city: you approach them and they assume the postcard`s posture to give you the chance for the flash, and you tip them. It is part of the ritual, and they are there for that. These vintages figurines are part of the flavour brought by the authorities to season the Old Havana in order to keep the waves of tourist coming.

Years ago, the government tried to ban those old faces from the city. Dangerously, they were a pretty close reminiscence of the real face of Cuba: a country with a huge population living in the limit of the poverty, and those old faces were the tip of the iceberg with dollar flavour. But Eusebio Leal, just smelling the real necessity of the vintage touch, brought them back, and here they are: royal beggars in Old Havana for postcard Vignettes.

You can see them everywhere, all of them look alike: old black women, with picturesque dresses in pink, red and white, with crispy voices asking for the conspicuous dollar after the picture.

Only there the picture looks an ideally postcard. Leaving those premises, the postcard turns to another dimension: the real one, the real Cuba.