Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The age of lost dreams

When I was a child and I was in primary school, there was that lecture of history where my teacher was telling us how our old people many times finished their life like our “Caballero de Paris” (Gentleman from Paris).The age of lost dreams

The renowned Gentleman from Paris was a beggar of the 50’s who used to walk the whole Havana, up and down, and when people asked him who he was, the poor gawky guy always answered: I am the Gentleman from Paris.

I still have a romantic image of my Havana, the Havana I knew in the earliest 80’s, when the Soviet Union still was our source of supplies and many people dreamed to go to the old Russia to study anything. I also remember the figure of this poor old lad on National Television. And believe it or not, the Havana of my dreams was a beautiful city where absolutely everything was perfect. Happiness was raining from the skies as we could say it. But it wasn’t.

How many old people do you stumble with in any stroll through my old Havana?

I have no idea. Many, too many, I would say. I remember this old lady, seated in the steps of Neptuno and Galeano (the very commercial center of Havana) with her hand stretched out asking me for a coin. I looked at her and from the deepest bottom of their eyes a desperate tingle of light came out and squeezed my heart.

You walk through the city and you can find many of those new “Gentlemen from Paris” here and there. Some of them with little figurines of Saint Lazarus, a few little pictures of Virgin Mary or our Lady of Charity of El Cobre (Pattern of Cuba) and begging for help of any kind, mostly money.

In an age when all their dreams had to be fulfilled, people like the one in the picture are walking through their lives without hope and with their dreams lost. And the statue of our old well-known friend, the Gentleman from Paris, standing in one of the streets of Old Havana, came to my mind in a flash.

Eusebio Leal, the well-known historian, couldn’t resist the idea of the old Havana’s walker and entrusted the statue of the legendary beggar to be nailed down in front of the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is part of the global marketing plan of Havana by the Cuban authorities.

It doesn’t matter that images like that one are thriving in flesh rather than in stone and cooper. The livings aren’t in the marketing plan. They don’t count.

Sadly, people stumble with and they don’t even notice them. They are only shadows within the city.