Back in Holguin, I rented a
small car for 10 days to drive a circle northeast to Guardalavaca and
Banes, new scenes to me, around through Mayari and Moa to Baracoa, out
to the eastern tip of the island if I could, then west again along the
south coast to Santiago and back up to Holguin by way of Belem and Mirador
de Mayabe, where Pancho the beer drinking burro lives. That's less than
a 3-day drive, but I wanted to have the car for a week in and around
Baracoa, to see the beaches and the jungle.
I made a quick tour of the extravagant hotels
at Guardalavaca, which seemed extravagantly empty that day, considering
Granma's claim that tourism was up. There's a small cluster of money
drops there, of the kind called "the village" in tourist spas
everywhere, so I wined and dined. I had an exceptional pasta at Pizza
Nova, one of the improved new state restaurants challenging the going
wisdom that the places to eat well in Cuba are privately run paladars
in people's homes. The cook was a Canadian Italian.
While I ate, I wrote in my notebook that, instead
of letting outsiders build generic luxury spas, that tell the kind of
tourists who like them nothing about socialism and give the foreign
builders an apparently capitalist share of Cuba, they should have more
slowly built real beach and fishing towns with a hotel room with private
bath in every house. Every tourist could then have stayed with a Cuban
Walking around Cienfuegos being invited into
houses along my way for coffee, lemonade, or conversation, it's often
struck me that there are more houses there with space to accommodate
tourists than there are rooms at the Hotel Jagua. They could have razed
the historically and aesthetically offensive Bautista block house and replaced
it with a bigger, more beautiful socialist hotel without having to build
it. Rent-a-units installed or improved or built into new houses could
be treated as a single state hotel, not turning Cuban families into
businesses, but with the housekeeper in each family who cooks and cleans
for the guests being a peso-paid state employee.
Of course, I also wrote that what had been done
had been done and inertia had set in. What I consider Cuba's ill conceived
tourist sector seems to have been rushed past a point of no return as
urgently as if there were as little time as I think there is - or maybe
the rushing was done by people in the government with a different view
of the future than mine or Fidel's.
Anyway, while I found the Guardalavaca palaces
almost empty, enough tourists of a kind they didn't expect, who don't
like pretentious spas, had bypassed them and driven on south to Banes,
so that I found all but one of the rooms for rent in private homes there
taken. And I took that one, as has been related elsewhere.
Banes is a side trip, and trying to pass on
through it next day, I got a little disoriented, so, returning through
the center, I picked up three hitchhiking youths bound for a beach somewhere
to pick their brains. One immediately started offering to set me up
with a chica or whatever I else I wanted, and I stopped abruptly and
ordered him out. Moving again, I explained my intense dislike for jineteros, especially in a communist country, to the others and, instead of defending their abandoned companion, they
became very respectful and stayed with me for a distance past their
turn to show me the intersection where I had to turn south.
I picked up a woman there and dropped her at
a farm road leading across dry fields apparently to nowhere. North of
Banes, I'd wound through photogenic hills past palmy little farms surrounded
by healthy green crops that looked unaffected by the drought further
west. But now I was in a flat land of dead furrows, picking my way along
a broken road that took its time getting to Mayari, where I stopped
only long enough for a tuKola at the Bitiri Hotel, since the reverse
charming waitress there (see interview #56, "Cubans Choose Socialism")
told me I couldn't have breakfast.
Not too far east, I picked up a girl going to
Moa to visit her father. She had grown up in the ugly town, which I
had been amazed to find totally militant in '02, since I would vote
the grim cluster of edificios the town most likely to be escaped from.
So I asked her what teenagers did there, and she confirmed at least
that there are some beaches under the sloping town. Since the mountains
there look wild, I had hoped there might be a jungle paradise to explore.
Cubans are always telling me their jungles are completely safe, with
nothing in them to bite or sting or poison people, but, though my passenger
had known some boys who went exploring, she herself had never swung
on a vine or swum in a jungle pool. But, of course, she loved her ugly
Her father was a moveable cook who fed different
work crews where they happened to be, and she didn't know where he was,
so we went here and there around Moa, confirming my aesthetic prejudices,
until someone sent us the right way to cross his path. This took me
near a smoky nickel plant, which I briefly visited to see if it looked
worse close up and found it to be much like the Redwood City cement
company where I worked a summer on the bull gang in my student days.
Then I drove on down the lush jungle coast another 50 miles past some
of Cuba's prettiest beaches to Baracoa. It was my easiest arrival in
Baracoa so far. I'm talking about May, 2004.
The first time I went there in 2001, the trip
was almost as difficult as it had been for Columbus. I'm talking about the summer of '01 now. A fellow traveler
and I got to Havana's small plane airport at 5 a.m., where they routinely
processed his ticket to Guantanamo, from where we hoped to catch a colectivo
to Baracoa, but said my ticket wasn't a ticket. It took an hour to get
a rep to show up at the HavanaTur office in the airport. He insisted
my piece of paper was a ticket. They still said no. He
kept disappearing to telephone people and reappearing to assure me everything
was OK. At 0630, my friend (I'm going to call him Fernando from now
on) flew on, because the guy said he'd get me on the next flight in
a few hours.
He disappeared more completely then, and I learned
there was no other flight. I went back to our Vedado house to drop off
my bag and then to the agency, where they said they now had me booked
on a flight to Santiago. They would drive me back to the airport and
someone would meet me in Santiago and drive me to the Guantanamo airport.
All that happened, but our destination turned out to be an empty building
beside a runway out in a pasture, no cabs, no busses, no nothing, with
a phone that didn't work, and the entire staff gone somewhere else until
another plane was due. Fernando wasn't there, either. I hoped he'd gone
on to Baracoa with other passengers in a colectivo I imagined might
have met the plane. HavanaTur drove me to the Hotel Guantanamo at the
edge of the city, where there were signs of life. It was late and threatening
to rain by then, and the hotel, though nearly identical to the Mira
Flores in Moa, which is the jewel of that town, seemed to me to have
an ambience of despair.
My choices: pay a real taxi $50 to immediately
take me to Baracoa (there were two in front of the hotel), catch a bus
the next day at 2 p.m. that would get me there at 6 or 7 in a downpour
(the downpour was 90% predicted), or pay $35 to a kid with a maquina
(a '53 Chevy that happened to be parked there) to take me first thing
in the morning, which would be illegal, but it was the HavanaTur person
who suggested it. I liked the idea because I used to have a '53 Chevy
just like it.
Since I felt filthy, tired, and unsure of myself,
and it was starting to thunder and flash, I rejected the immediate taxi
choice because it was an immediate choice, told the kid with the maquina
I'd decide in the morning and went into the hotel, checked in so I could
take a shower, and then learned the water was off. That's happened to
me only 3 or 4 times in Cuba, but it happens to me all the time in Mexico
and Central America. Life would be easier for flesh and blood beings
with pores and etc. if they weren't flesh and blood beings with pores
and etc. Finding my room had a partly rainy balcony, I considered stripping
and standing on it, but, instead, locked the balcony door, which was
a struggle because the bolt and slide weren't aligned, and took the
only out left - the also waterless hotel restaurant. By that time, in
mocking contrast to the plumbing, it was pouring outside. I told the
waitress, Yenny (short for Yenysi, Cuban for Jennifer) that I was having
She told me they could make sandwiches (ham
and cheese, of course) and had Mayabe Beer, so I limited myself to worrying
about Fernando, whom I'm calling Fernando because I'm not naming any
American who's been to Cuba while Washington is still held by fascists
who go around at night arresting people without charges. I went out
to the desk and called the house in Havana, but the woman there hadn't
heard from him. I hoped he was in Baracoa and not lost. Fernando had
gotten lost with amazing ease in Nicaragua the last time he'd traveled
I reminded myself in my notebook that I'd seen
Cayo Granma looking very chic from the air, as we'd come into Santiago,
and riding out of town with a HavanaTur person who'd met me virtually
at the foot of the plane's ladder, I'd seen some pretty south Santiago
neighborhoods I hadn't seen before. Tired and worried and pissed off
as I was, it had been a beautiful plane trip, including a good view
of the country around Holguin when we briefly skipped down and out of
there. But I didn't like where I was and I was going to like it less.
I think being sweaty, disheveled, and visibly
tired was my downfall. I looked vulnerable. And I was targeted, probably,
by a jinetero hanging around who came to my door once trying to change
pesos for dollars, and again trying to cut in on my arrangement for
a ride with his "friend," whom I then also worried about,
though the kid with the car was plainly OK. The jinetero was an insinuating
type who would probably claim I was his friend while planning to rob
me, which I believe he later did, though I don't absolutely know that.
The robbery itself was hard to believe, especially
because I don't trust my old mind anymore. I forget where I lay things
down. I get confused about what to do first, etc. So even though I knew
it happened, I kept thinking with part of my mind that I was forgetting
something. The facts, however, were so certain I could reconstruct the
crime like Sherlock Holmes. An unlikely movie crime - but it happened.
I had 5 rolls of bills very well and securely
hidden in my Levi's but feelable. Every time I put my Levi's on or took
them off and several times a day I felt and counted them, and 5 isn't
a count you can be unsure of. I took out one roll in Havana to buy a
plane ticket. That roll became $100 less than the others. Of course
I counted it and I also knew where that roll was hidden. It was still
there later, still $100 short. No surprise. It was hard to get the rolls
out, almost impossible when my Levi's were sweaty and damp. They couldn't
When Yenny finally told me the water was on,
I hadn't had my Levi's off since Havana. I had locked both doors to
my room before dinner, but when I went back, I assumed the balcony door
was still bolted and didn't check it. Showered back to life and in a
clean shirt, I went downstairs to call Havana and got Fernando's message,
an address in Baracoa where the people would be expecting me, and left
a message for him just that I'd gotten his message and would be there
So all was well. I read a little and wrote a
little and went to bed. I opened the balcony curtain so daylight could
tell me when morning came but didn't look at the door bolt, which by then had to have been released, obviously from the inside. I rolled
my Levi's and put them beside my pack on the chair by the bed (since
then I've never failed to put them under my pillow).
I slept way too deep, unusual for me, but I
was tired. When my mental clock woke me at 6, I saw the curtain I'd
deliberately opened was closed. No! I almost leaped from the bed to
the balcony door. It was open. Then I saw my Levi's draped over the
chairback. My passport carrier was jammed, not neatly, into the wrong
pocket. I opened it. No passport visible. Aye! Aye! Aye! But the passport
was stuffed into the wrong compartment, hard to do since it was jammed
against my Mexican money.
My wallet was still in its place, ID and money
there, but I could feel only four of the hidden rolls. Damn! I looked
in the sheets and under the bed. I took out all the rolls and counted
them - l, 2, 3, 4. The short roll was there. I had not removed any other
roll. I knew which one was missing. It was the easiest to get at, but
impossible until my Levi's dried, way after midnight for sure. Then,
it could be worked out fairly quickly, but it couldn't fall out. I actually disassembled the rolls and counted
the money, which was just therapy. I was still short the amount of one
roll - obviously, with the balcony door open and my Levi's rifled.
It was scary to think of the sneak thief hiding on the balcony, listening until my snoring was regular, coming in as quiet as death, going through my pockets, feeling at least one of the bumps, guessing what it was, and being calm enough to work it out, and all that happening right beside me while I slept. I must have stopped snoring or turned over, startling him so he dropped my Levi's and retreated out the door, closing the curtain to block my view of the balcony where he stood and listened again until he decided to take what he had. I was lucky he hadn't taken my Levi's.
But there was nothing to be done. Maybe the
cops knew the jinetero and wanted something on him, but maybe not, and
I couldn't prove anything, I didn't want to involve anyone who didn't
deserve trouble, I wouldn't get the money back, and I didn't want to
be uselessly delayed by any kind of bureaucratic police procedure.
Cuban cops, like the Sandinista cops in 80's
Nicaragua, are far better than most. They aren't fat, they're not legalized
motorcycle gangsters or officious boy scouts with guns. Often enough,
they don't have guns, and they tend to be polite almost to a fault.
I've seen them in action, and Cubans always argue with them without
fear. But they're cops, and they're bureaucrats, who butt into your
life and waste your time. Anyway, I don't cry long about definitely
lost money. The robbery was one small piece in the mosaic of my Cuban
experience, important because it may have been the worst thing that
ever happened to me on the island.
The sun was shining, the kid was out front polishing
his Chevy, and the only problem that needed thinking about that morning
was that he still had to fill the gas tank. And that wasn't on my mind,
either, because I still didn't know about it or how long it was going
to take. It wasn't a problem, anyway, since I got an extensive tour
of Guantanamo - the Cuban city not the U.S. base - as he filled the
tank a gallon, a quart, a pint at a time.
He tried the back doors of the gas stations
first and got nowhere with that, but he wouldn't have tried if it wasn't
possible. All the gas he got came from different houses and, I assumed,
was stolen, one way or another, from the boss, i.e. the state. So, having
failed to report one robbery, I was abetting some others. It took a
lot of the morning and involved several neighborhoods, and I got both
another look at the famous Cuban black market and a good look at another
As for the black market, this was a typical
example in that what was acquired was not critical and also in that
nobody seemed bitter or exasperated about the tediousness of the process.
It was partly a social opportunity and partly an interesting scene in
the novela that Cubans like to make of their lives. As for Guantanamo,
it reminded me of some places I know in Nicaragua, Rivas a little, since
there were so many bicycles and horse carts, Chinandega more, because
of the almost oriental bustle in the narrow streets where two horse
carts meeting could cause a traffic jam. But it was like Nicaragua with
floors and solid walls. I saw no sign of a dirt floor or of cooking
smoke coming through porous walls. The kid said he didn't know of anything
like that. When I described Nicaraguan poverty, he told me nobody in
Guantanamo lives like that. He had a job and didn't consider himself
either poor or desperate. The only reason he wanted my $35 was to get
some things to fix up the car.
He was one of those Cubans who point toward
sunrise, noon, and sunset to dramatize an assurance that Cubans eat
three times a day. "But you don't eat beef," I reminded him.
He said he did "a veces." Sometimes. Chicken and pork are
on the ration, subsidized. I've seen fish being distributed free, and
Cubans have gotten past their traditional disdain for fish. Yet I meet
internal gusanos who lament the reservation of most beef for the tourist
trade as if it were a human rights abuse. Maybe it is. Parading the
apparent wealth of splurging tourists in front of Cubans seems to me
to be the only real human rights abuse happening in Cuba, though it's
a safe bet it won't ever be listed that way by the CIA's phony human
rights front. And the Chevy kid didn't think so, either. He explained
the importance of tourism and insisted that "everyone" in
Guantanamo is militant. This is interesting because every embedded U.S.
reporter who goes there for an hour to look through the fence somehow
finds a starving and bitter dissident to talk to.
Late as we started, an hour, or maybe two hours
out, we passed a Swiss couple on bicycles, who had left the hotel when
I did. I would see them the next day in Baracoa and later in Holguin
and in Cienfuegos. That's the way to see a mostly level island, I thought.
But they camped at Cajobabo Beach to get their strength up for the toughest
climb in Cuba, which I cruised over in the old Chevy. In fact, we stalled
once and had to overcome a vapor lock, a phenomenon I'd forgotten existed,
to start again. But the car didn't heat up. Baracoa used to be cut off
except by sea until the road we were on was pushed over the pass in
the 60's. Now it's a steep and winding but easy drive through a beautiful
jungle, up and over, past numerous panoramic vistas, to the tropical
coast of Baracoa.
Driving a road like that in a car, if you've
looked at a map first, is the best way to understand terrain, and I'd
carefully studied a beautiful if not perfectly accurate map of that
part of Cuba, that I bought in a map store on Calle Mercaderes in
Habana Vieja. The following year, '02, I would come to Baracoa by air,
in a small, low flying propeller plane with a balcony view of Cuba's
biggest and bluest rivers threading the wooly green mountains and of
the dramatic El Junco Mesa, of the coastline north of town, and of the
beach, the jungle, and the bay as we dropped birdlike into the miniature
airport. And when I left town in '02 (I'm talking about 2002 now and my second visit to Baracoa; no need to get confused), headed north for Moa, I went by
taxi up the same coast I'd seen 10 days earlier from the air. My driver
detoured to show me the tourist resort at Maguana Beach and, before
finding the main road again, zigzagged a few miles along a dirt road
through the woods past several isolated old houses, all of which had
been updated with floors, water, and electricity, but some of which
were partly made of grass.
So, approaching from the north in '04 in the rental car (now I'm talking about 2004 again, when this chapter started and I was on my way to Baracoa for the third time), I knew some landmarks and some of what to expect. After finding the moveable cook and visiting the nickel plant, I'd picked up a pair of hitchhiking school kids leaving Moa, but they hadn't gone far, so my trip down the same coast I'd taxied up in '02 was quiet and seemed longer than I remembered, because the road was slow where heavy rain, I suppose, had completely disappeared the pavement and it was slower where just enough of the pavement had survived to get in the way.
Most of Cuba's roads are fair to good, but the
50-mile gap between Moa and Baracoa is apparently not considered a vital
link. A few camiones (trucks with benches installed in their beds) carry
a few Cubans back and forth, but the busline from Santiago ends in Baracoa,
and the busline from Holguin ends in Moa. It's a rare traveler who ever
thinks of going any further past Baracoa than Maguana Beach, and it's
a rarer traveler who ever goes trough Moa to Baracoa. So driving slowly
didn't mean I got in anyone's way. All it meant was that I saw some
things I hadn't seen before, like an idyllic cemetery sloping down through
the palms toward the beach, some weird lava rock formations beside the
road including one that needed only a table cloth, a glass, and a chair
to be cocktail table, and a selection of small white beaches there for
the taking if I'd had a beach blanket, a lunch basket, and a woman.
When I finally came to the Maguana turnoff,
I knew that only a little further on I'd cross the Rio Toa, and a little
beyond there I'd come to Baracoa. But I was tired of driving, so I told
some hitchhikers standing there I'd get back to them later and took
the sandy entry road to the resort for a break. But I came to an unremembered
fence with a closed gate. From her nearby porch, a Maguana woman told
me I could have lunch at her place and walk to a different beach with
no fence around it, but I could also rouse the resort by honking if
I thought I had to.
Instead, I examined the gate, found that the
padlock was only hanging, hung it in a friendlier spot, pushed the gate
open and drove down to where I thought the taxi had parked two years
before. Nothing looked the same, except the white sand beach where I
could see about a dozen tourists. I found some small shady but unwaited
tables against the wall of a designer looking, polished wooden building
where a European scribbling in a notebook told me it was more a hotel
than a restaurant and there was a desk inside. There was, but nobody
was at it, so I gave myself a tour, including looking into an open vacant
room, and finally found a fancy snack shack in the trees near the beach
with one staff person, who had nothing ready to eat and only unwillingly
sold me a beer, which I took back to the shady tables. Another guy dressed
like a waiter came from up the road and asked if I wanted a room, which
I declined, wondering if he'd locked me in.
Leaving, I met two guys wading a stream beyond
the fence near my car with a big fish they wanted to sell me. "I
don't have a kitchen," I said. They did, at a house on a nearby
beach, where they'd cook the fish for me. "Maybe another time,"
I said, wondering if I was making a mistake, and drove back up to the
gate, which was, sure enough, locked. After I'd honked the key keeper
back up, as I drove out, the porch woman waved at me again and I thought
next time I would do it her way.
The hitchhikers were gone, but I picked up some
kids again on the other side of the river and took them to where they
lived near the chocolate processing plant. Baracoa has chocolate, coffee,
rice, coconuts, a number of fruits and vegetables, and tourism. There's
a modern hotel by the airport that doesn't interest me at all, and another
big hotel on the slope above town. And there are plenty of rooms to
rent in houses.
In '01, Fernando had found us a magazine centerfold
room at #86 Maceo with a balcony overlooking the main street and, looking
for other tourists to share a cab back to Santiago with us, we visited
a dozen other casas with rooms that would be worth $100 apiece as bed
and breakfasts in Santa Cruz, but go for $10 or $15. In '02, the prettiest
girl on the plane, after studying me in her cosmetics mirror, had given
me her parents' card and, when her house had turned up full, had walked
me around several houses with rooms to rent in her neighborhood. I stayed
in three houses in '02, and, looking again for tourists to share a cab
to Moa, I saw more. So when I arrived in '04, I knew where to go. Baracoa
is so full of rooms in private houses; I've never considered a hotel.
I use the bar and restaurant in Hotel La Russa because it's historically
But in '04, I had to think of the car. Only
one casa with rooms was known to have a garage, and that was taken.
"But you can just park in front," everyone said. "Nothing
will happen to your car." It wasn't my car, so I parked at the
curb beside La Russa, at the hotel's suggestion, because someone is
theoretically always awake there. I don't know if that mattered, but
it was parked there for seven nights and nobody touched it.
A family I'd stayed with before who were no
longer renting rooms because they said there weren't enough tourists
to justify the price of the license, walked me to the home of a friend
who had what I needed. My room, a short walk from my parking place,
was a kind of small second story penthouse with a lot of windows and
two stairways, one inside leading down to breakfast, one outside, very
good for coming in late, which I expected to do in Baracoa.
For such a small town, Baracoa has a small but
rich concentration of nightlife around the small triangular central
park in front of the small, possibly leaning church (they say it's leaning
and sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't). The center of action,
across a narrow street from the church and park and right beside the
take-out window of a Chinese restaurant that sells miniature pizzas,
is the Casa de la Trova, where local youths who can dance like nobody's
business like to show off. Tourists who can dance find themselves popular
Because it's the only tourist town between Santiago and Haiti,
Baracoa draws a few chicas from Moa and Guantanamo looking to score.
Put a tiny asterisk after whatever you've heard about Cuba's supposed
sex industry. It's not an "industry." It's not even a unified "it." In fact, there are Cuban girls and men who, separately, very individually and usually very amateurishly, hustle male and female tourists - not in red light districts or houses; there's no such thing. They show up in places where tourists gather and stay, rather than just tour through. Baracoa is like that, and it's well set up for romance, but it's also isolated and hard to get to, so there's some action there, but not much, and much less now than in '01, when there wasn't much, either. Actually, even in '01, Fernando and I saw only three or four clearly working chicas in Baracoa and a small group of possibly working, possible transvestites.
In '01, hustling in Cuba must have been at it's peak. In '00, I saw no sign of it, in '02 very little, and in '04 even less (in '05, there is almost none). But in '01, there was quite a bit - in Havana, not in Baracoa, and not a lot anywhere - not a lot compared to, say, Tijuana, but there were more than a few independent, mostly amateurish hustlers then, who ranged from naively charming to cynically cunning, from gold diggers who probably considered themselves the serious girlfriends and boyfriends of tourists, to whores and gigolos contemptuous of their marks. They were wherever tourists were, but, even then, they were concentrated in only a few places. When we arrived in Havana in '01, Fernando and I immediately encountered a small crowd of flirting chicas, all decked out in slinky gowns or mini-skirts and platform shoes, at Sofia's all night coffee shop in Vedado, and up La Rampa from there for several blocks.
After we got tired of telling girls we weren't
paying for sex and feeling sorry for them because they were all failing
so miserably, we decided to play along with the pitch of two girls at
an outdoor cafe.
They didn't look as serious as the girls in Sofia's, but they were hustlers,
just not the kind of examples the Miamistas would want. Exactly like
the girls I met in 1989, they weren't asking for money, just hoping
rich tourists would buy them gifts. But, also like the girls in '89,
they had no place to go. They'd heard there were hourly hotels, but
they didn't know where. Maybe our rooms? No way. We were counting on
our hostess as a useful friend. So we talked to them about themselves
Of course, they were from out of town. Even
in Havana, the chicas usually are. One of the two was from Bayamo, and
she thought there were some really serious hookers who might need money
for food. She didn't know any hungry people, but she'd heard there were
some. Her friend said absolutely not. Not since the depression. "It's
not like in '89 yet," she said, "but nobody's hungry."
She didn't know what motivated the other girls.
The girls we talked to on another night in the
Monserrate bar downtown, a look-alike, cheaper alternative to La Floridita,
a block away, did want money. We asked how much, and each one said,
"Tu me digas." "You tell me." So we called their
bluff, and they laughed, and we eventually found out their hopes varied
between $20 and $35, and I doubt they scored twice a week. But in '01,
we found them brazenly obvious in two small parts of Havana, fairly
visible but cautious around the Casa de la Trova in Santiago, catchable
when we fished a bit in downtown Camaguay, and very few but bold in
Cienfuegos and Baracoa. That was in '01. Since then, due to crackdowns
or the improving economy, Cuba's "sex industry" has withered,
and what there is has become cautious. I've heard there's a lot of action
in Varadero, but that's not Cuba and I never go there so I don't know. In 2005 (this is obviously a later amendment) I saw almost no evidence of prostitution in Cuba.
In '01, Fernando, being romantically inclined, though not interested in pros, tried constantly with the island's famously
hot good girls, and scored once in Pinar del Rio, which was kind of
sad, because the girl lost her head over him. I was drawn to the dissident
guard mentioned in "Cubans Choose Socialism" (also on this
website) and took her out that year and again in '02, before she "fled"
to Brazil. But I'm talking about actual "dates," as fiftyish
as Cuba's old cars. She was religiously "moral." In Baracoa
in '01, where Fernando, for a change, went unmolested, I was pursued
relentlessly for three days by an uninhibited hooker from Guantanamo,
a Guantanamera, who finally gave up and became an intimate friend, instead.
Fernando and I were inside the Trova in Baracoa to hear the music, when most people were still out in the street looking and listening through the big open-air windows, and most of the chairs, lined up three rows deep against two walls inside, were still empty. We'd already been introduced with plenty of flourish by the popular comic who mc's, as two aficionados who'd come all the way from California to hear the famous band playing that night (the one that plays every night). I glanced at the door just as a woman who could objectively be described as dazzling came in and stuck her tongue out at me. She wasn't in what we'd started calling the uniform - no elevated shoes, no mini-skirt or silky gown - just a bright orange blouse and long white shorts. But she entered with an air that meant the movie had just started. "That girl's tongue," I told Fernando, "is the same color as her blouse." "What girl?"
She'd disappeared into the seat beside me. "What
did you tell him about me and why are you laughing at me?" I told
her and she looked down across her tongue at her blouse and said it
wasn't true. She asked me if I had a Cuban girl friend, and I pointed
out my silver hair and beard. She said she liked older men, and in a
country where the national idol is 10 years older than me, I could have
kidded myself, but I told her, "Listen. I''m not here looking for
girls, and I don't pay for sex." Saying that had become a habit
"OK," and then with the All-Cuban smile that comes from free dental check-ups every six months, "Do you want to dance?" I said if she danced with me she'd never want to again.
And that turned out to be true, but she didn't want to leave and she
hadn't paid her peso to get in. So I found a peso in my pocket and gave
it to the doorman who's always there on cue. Paying the one peso admission
(I mean one peso moneda nacional, i.e. 4 cents at the bank) is the ceremonial
introduction. It makes the girl your date, and the music and dancing
are why you're there, which stymies the easily stymied cops, if there
There are in Havana, and the ones we asked outside
Sofia's told us, "It's not against the law to dress up sexy and
come downtown at night." Prostitution is illegal, but the Havana
cops said in '01 they had to almost catch people in the act. In Santiago,
if a single girl is seen repeatedly hanging around the Trova, she'll
be carded - her carnet number recorded - to see if she's suspiciously
regular and keeps leaving with different men.
But nice girls also wait outside the Trova in
Baracoa, dressed to dance, where their boyfriends or secret admirers
can find them. It's warm, the big windows let the music come freely
out to them, and they're safe enough there by the park full of respectable
citizens in the shadow of the church. And leaving to go across the park
for a quieter tuKola between dances is just what people do. There're
a lot more innocent youths in the terrace café across the park than
there are hustlers. A girl from Moa told me in '02 that she thought
there are undercover cops watching in Baracoa, but that's a stretcher
in a town where everyone knows each other.
Every cop I asked in '02 swore there had been
no crackdown, so I don't know what suddenly happened to the so-called
sex industry in Cuba. Whatever it was affected the jineteros, too
- the male con artists who drive tourists nuts and whose numbers also
peaked in '01. I'd seen them in '00, and there were a lot more jineteros
than chicas pestering us in '01. But they were also almost gone in '02
and at least not swarming in '04 (and in '05 both jineteros and chicas were closer to gone than in '02). Maybe they were relocated (with "job
training"), like rogue bears moved from Yosemite Valley to higher
mountains, as several approving Cubans (but only one cop so far) have
told me. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe Fidel made some persuasive speeches.
I know there was propaganda. I saw a long story in Granma, an interview
with a girl who had done wrong, got caught, gone to jail and reformed,
and was, or course, telling other girls to be good.
The story of me and the charming Guantanamera
was just corny except that she was black. I'd always thought I was genetically
not attracted to black girls, since there was no other explanation.
But in Cuba I learned fast that my genes draw no lines at black girls
who don't seem to know they're black. Every black person in America
goes around thinking inside his head, "I'm black. I'm black. I'm
black," so loud you can almost hear it, because America, being
a place where the importance of being successful and having money and
looking right is actually taught in the schools and by the media and
the advertising industry, is incurably class and therefore race conscious.
Everybody, of every race, for good or bad reasons, is preoccupied with
race - they never shut up about it - and it's a turn-off. But in Cuba, where they effectively outlawed racism in 1959, and where half the people seem to be mulato anyway, everybody acts and talks
not the same but on the same level, which is very relaxing, and you
stop noticing colors in a week or two, and an old white man starts seeing
just the smiles and curves and personalities of girls of all colors.
There was a blonde from Canada or England
or maybe America there that week (I'm still talking about '01) who was
popular with the good local dancers, and she decided she liked me because
I told her what a good dancer she was, and, knowing I wasn't blathering,
she was too flattered. She and her friends were at the same house with
us, and I'd won her friendship at the house. Then, at the Trova that
night, as I always do there, I bought a fistful of peanut cones from
the vendor outside and handed them out to all the girls I knew, the
girls from the house being on my left and the girl from Guantanamo,
still trying, on my right. So she saw the electricity, got jealous,
and walked out, which I didn't notice. But Fernando noticed it and told
me, so when she came back, I introduced her to everyone as a friend from Guantanamo - as a part of our group of out-of-towners, which may have worked better if the blonde had spoken better Spanish, because few tourists go to Guantanamo, and she was a good person, wide awake enough to be interested.
There was another European woman who sort of joined us that night, though, who was very predatory and whom Fernando and I would meet later in Santiago with a jinetero she'd picked up and was taking around with her, and this woman apparently antagonized the Guantanamera so much that I had to explain to her again in the privacy of Spanish that we were all friends and I wasn't buying or selling sex from or to anyone.
The next day, she walked with me and Fernando
to the park where a little wooden stand called El Rapidito sells vanilla
ice cream one day and chocolate the next from the factory about three
blocks away, and where there's a half statue of Columbus that seems
buried to its waist. A guy asked Fernando what time it was by his watch
and then, "Hey mon, whair you frome?" in English, and I said,
"Otro jinetero mas," and she got icy angry and told me I should
judge people separately. Some tough chica, I thought.
Of course, I told her she was right except
that we had been pestered constantly by jineteros and had very understandably
lost all our patience. Fernando was so fed up with them, he was starting
to blame Cuba. Actually, jineteros don't make up a significant fraction
of a percent of the people, but they make sure the tourists meet them and, to us, they seemed to be swarming in '01 and they were easy to get fed up with, so I said maybe I shouldn't be judged so fast, either. Well, maybe, but she didn't go on with us to the ice cream factory that day.
The next time I saw her, she'd gotten over it
and we were finally just good friends and I wasn't a mark she was trying
to make money from anymore, which was good because it smoothed the way
for us, and that night, the music seemed very good as we marked the
tempo on each other's knees and, after Fernando and also the girls from
England or Canada or America had gotten tired and gone home, we closed
the Trova, and then we closed the soda stand on the malecon.
She asked if she'd been pestering me too much,
and I remembered my rant about jineteros, but though everyone recognizes
the feminine form of the word, I rarely hear it used. In spite of
the ambiguity, jineteras are called chicas, and everybody likes the
chicas. I said of course not, but, though it was not my business, I
thought she should ask the employment office for a job and set an example
for her daughter, since lots of Cubans live fine off their peso salaries.
She told me she had a job in Guantanamo but sometimes she visited friends
in Baracoa or Santiago and tried to make some dollars for extras. Which
she wasn't doing, I reminded her. "Aah... no me importa,"
she flashed me her bright healthy Cuban smile.
At about 3 or 4, she wanted to go home with
me to help me pack, but I didn't want to wake up Fernando, because we
thought we were taking a camion to Santiago at dawn. Fernando had come
from the Guantanamo airport in one. But the incredibly cheap camiones
are part of the peso economy which is only for Cubans if there is a
bureaucrat present who insists on it, and there was, so we had to go
back to the dollar economy where tourists sometimes belong and take
the regular bus a few hours later.
Fernando always asks me if I've seen the Guantanamera
again, but I haven't. The next year, I met a few different chicas at
the Trova there (see "Cubans Choose Socialism"), and in '04
I met different ones again. I think chica careers in Baracoa are short
because the chicas are usually girls between prep school and a job or
girls from distant working towns who come in groups for one-time flings,
which describes the girls I met in '04, except that they weren't hustlers. In '04, in Baracoa, I saw only one chica probably trying to hustle, a girl it's objective to say "gave me the eye," but wouldn't make the first move.
After I'd parked the rental car and settled into my penthouse in 2004 (I'm talking about '04 again), I bought
a bottle of Pinar del Rio wine (Soroa) at a dollar and peso store and
walked to the tiny home of an artist couple I know. Their door was shut
but a man across the street who'd been introduced to me in '02 as a
fellow mason told me, "Ya viene," and I saw them coming down
the steep street from the center carrying bread, which was just what
The artist and I sat in chairs in the street
sipping wine while his wife, who had opened the wine and served it,
cut bread for us in the hot little kitchen, which was visible and audible
to us because the house is not much more than a slot in a row of such
slots. She was a productive artist in her own right but she did the
cooking and serving and tended to let men talk. She was vivacious when
prodded, though, and reminded me of a Nica, and she was eager to show
me a painting she'd just done and was going to replicate as an attractive
souvenir piece for tourists who she hoped would buy it to remember Baracoa.
Her techniques had improved since '02, and the
picture, a brightly colored comic cartoon image of a traditionally dolled
up mulata sitting alone in the park apparently pining for someone, the
church with its eastern steeple tilted perilously in the background,
would symbolize Baracoa missing the tourists who hung it on their walls.
I was impressed and told her that if I weren't on a long journey with
a backpack, I would like to buy the original for my daughter, and during
the rest of the week I was in town, she kept holding it up for me, saying,
"Piensas, Glen, piensa-a-as." "Think about it, Glen,
keep thinking about it."
The last time we'd talked, the artist had predicted
that the census they were taking then would show the island's population
stabilized, because anyone could see that women were having only one
or two children, and he had been right. I told him about the nearly
empty hotels in Guardalavaca that made me wonder about Granma's reports
of a tourist boom. He thought tourism was down in Baracoa, and after
that I was going to hear the same wherever I went. We also talked about
the internet and about chicas. He thought all the chicas were good girls
and if they said they needed money, he said he believed them.
"But they all say they need to buy shoes
for their only kid," I objected. "So if they score twice a
week, does the kid get 104 pairs of shoes a year?" I told him about
the museum guide in Cienfuegos who said all they really wanted were
platform shoes for themselves and jewelry and slinky gowns, and about
the chica I'd questioned about her needs in Baracoa who'd confirmed
exactly that. In '04, they weren't dressing like that, but the new subdued
fashions may have cost even more.
I wanted to find a place to wash the car and
the artist and his wife said they'd help me wash it in the Rio Duaba.
We tried the next day at the river mouth, got stuck in the sand, and
had to be pushed out by people who live there. Then we drove up the
river road, past a factory which they told me turns coconut shells into
charcoal, until we found a solid gravel bar barely above water level
and washed the car very well there, so I invited them to ride with me
to La Maquina.
Several people had told me I couldn't leave
Baracoa by way of the eastern tip because the road past La Maquina was
closed to outsiders for security reasons, so I'd decided to drive just
to the supposedly interesting coffee town and back, but when we'd climbed
the dangerously steep and tightly winding grade beyond Yumuri, we came
immediately to a road block, not military as it would have been in any
other country, just an old man with a lowered boom. He said Cubans could
pass but tourists couldn't. But I protested that the state had rented
me the car to see Cuba and had sold me an expensive map book that labeled
that road as a "scenic route" with the words inside a bright
yellow comic book bang symbol, and, much to the delight of my passengers
and several bystanders, I argued him into letting us through.
On the beach at the bottom of the grade, we'd
already passed a soldier in a gun tower facing the sea which had almost
made me cry, because if the barbarians in Washington decide to "shock
and awe" Cuba, with planes so high up they can't be seen, though
everyone in the world besides the disgracefully stupid U.S. Republicans
will be on Cuba's side, even a brave and never ending resistance will
not save the island's beautiful system. So if I unknowingly saw anything
strategic beyond the boom, I hope I'll never admit it to any U.S. spook,
even under torture.
Actually, we saw a lot of potholes and some
beautiful forest. We visited some of my friends' relatives, who had
a little girl with startling eyes. In La Maquina, which, as a town,
was not to me apparently interesting, we accidentally encountered a
childhood friend of the artist, who invited us into his house for coffee.
The coffee grown near La Maquina, he told us, is widely considered to
be the best in the world. I'd never heard of it, but it was very good.
His solid concrete house had big rooms, big windows, a big kitchen,
high open ceilings, and homemade furniture. and there were so many baby
chicks running all over the floor, we dubbed it la casa de pollitos.
A very tiny old woman in a wheel chair was also visiting, who had been
disabled all her life, but even in that remote village, she had always
been well cared for. Talking to her, I thought of the handicapped people
I've seen, dirty and hopelessly begging on their own everywhere else
in Latin America. But she was there that day talking to her neighbors
and friends, because she was trading houses with someone in the city,
and all the citizen lawyers were contributing their advice about papers
and procedures to make sure neither party lost any credit already accumulated
toward ownership of their homes. There was a coconut palm leaning against
the house, which a young man climbed for us, and we took away a trunkload
of coconuts and a small sack of coffee for my remaining breakfasts in
On the way home, after we'd gone back down the
grade below the road block, we saw teenagers walking in a column through
the woods, and my friends, who knew from their own childhood memories,
explained that the teens were attending la escuela de los campos. Vaguely
like science camp in America, and also a bit like an ongoing peacefully
preventive version of Mao's cultural revolution in China, the school
of the countryside is home for 45 days a year to 14, 15, and 16-year-old
Cuban kids, who live in vigilantly separated boys' and girl's dorms,
eat in cafeterias, and spend their days helping country families with
their chores, crops, and livestock.
We also stopped for a soda in a roadside community
store at the famous beach and river canyon village of Yumuri. The Lonely
Planet Cuba guide (a book that Congress, the State Department, the CIA,
all U.S. media chiefs and talking heads, and the Florida "exile"
community should read, because it contains about 100 times more objective
information about the real Cuba than all of them together know, can
figure out how to dig up, or imagine exists) implies that Yumuri families
are unique in their eagerness to provide paladar and beach blanket catering
service to visiting tourists. My own experience suggests that there
are really almost as many ready and willingly spontaneous paladar/delis
in Cuba as there are homes. But Yumuri is certainly a picturesque place
to encounter that aspect of the island culture, and I decided I'd come
back again with some chicas I'd met.
At the Casa de la Trova one night, I found the
only pesos I had were some 10-peso paper notes, so I gave one to the
doorman, who remembered me from two previous years, and told him that
would cover me and several Cubans. A little later, he ushered three
girls to some empty seats on my left and gave me a high sign. They weren't
beauties, though the big one had the verve that does just as well, and
they'd come from Moa that day in a camion. They'd pooled a little money
and had a small room together in a house they knew how to get back to,
though they couldn't explain it.
The waiter got there almost as soon as the girls,
raising his eyebrows at me and, when I nodded, placed a small drinks
table in front of their knees. I told them they were my guests and to
tell him what they wanted (Cuban girls almost always order tuKola, Tropicola,
Cachito which is like Sprite, or a carbonated fruit juice logo'd Ciego
Montero). I got another Mayabe and told them I didn't dance myself but
there were lots of guys there who did. As out-of-towners and obviously
not jineteras, they were as exotic as foreigners to the locals, who
were mystified by me, though, and were asking my permission to ask the
girls to dance. The two shy girls took advantage of that and, if they
weren't sure of a guy, which at first meant every guy, they said they
were just with me. But the big girl danced with everybody - fat guys,
ugly guys, short guys, old guys, everybody. She was a flamboyant dancer,
and her popularity zoomed.
Taking a break at the terrace café across the
park, I learned that two of them were sisters, a lean, buck-toothed
and always smiling, somewhat shy little sister, and a curvaceous, dynamic
big sister. The third was a militant pharmacist, unpretentious but president
of the women's group in her neighborhood and of her CDR. She had done
the least dancing and I think the locals had decided she was the one
really with me and had stopped asking her so much.
But back in the trova, when the comic mc who
always theatrically introduces all visitors, elbowed me, winked, and
asked who they were, I told him they were the three chicas from Moa.
Chica means anything from just-a-girl to chick to hot tomato to hussy
to hustler, but there's no confusion about it, and when the music resumed
and he introduced them, as he would every night after that, as if they
were a famous group called the three chicas from Moa, the word clearly
Eventually, they seemed fairly well attended,
if not captured, by suitors and, being tired, I bailed out and went
home. The doorman told me I had 6 pesos credit left, and I told him
my three girlfriends were paid for for at least two more nights then.
But I didn't know that they made a mystery out of our connection and
used it as an excuse to escape unscathed together right after I left.
And when I arrived in the park the next night, looking for a peanut
vendor, I found them on a bench, all decked out in different outfits
from the night before, tapping their crossed arms at me and wanting
to know where I'd gone.
"Me parecio que estuvieron bien ocupadas,"
I said, wondering if "ocupadas" was right and if I should
have put it with estar or ser.
"But you're our jefe," the big sister
said, "and you have to take care of us."
I told them I wasn't anybody's jefe, and they
looked like they'd found their way back to their wardrobes. "It's
not dangerous here, is it?"
"Esta bien, but some of these
"Un poco necio?" That got a laugh
from the sisters and a serious amen from the pharmacist.
"Un poco," she said.
"Si, un poco, o..." said the big sister,
in a different tone, which made me laugh for a different reason.
The boys were waiting in the Trova, and the
big sister was again the belle of the ball, though there was a German
girl there who could dance but was willing to leave her German boyfriend's
side only a few times, and there was a gorgeous mulata with exquisite
poise on the floor, about the same size as my big girl, apparently with
a European man as old as me who also only watched. My girls expeditiously
learned and told me she was traveling around Cuba with him and was going
to marry him and go away with him. Great for him for awhile, I thought,
but maybe not for her. She looked like Cuba had been good to her.
I talked her and my big girl into dancing together,
which they both considered perverse, but it was a spectacle everyone
else cheered, and I wished I had a camera with a flash. Anyway, I'll
always have the image in my head. Readers may wonder why my girls weren't
being hit on by Europeans, but, in fact, there isn't a big percentage
of single male tourists in Cuba. I think there are more single female
tourists. Except for me, every male foreigner I noticed in Baracoa that
week was with his wife or girlfriend.
When they'd danced enough that night, much to
the chagrin of their admirers, I walked my chicas together to their
house, which was on the street that passes the library, only a few blocks
north of El Colonial, and invited them to go with me to Yumuri next
day. That was so exactly the right idea, it was as if they had written
my script. The sisters had a friend who had gotten away from Moa by
marrying a Yumuri man and we could visit her, they told me, and have
lunch at her house. It occurred to me almost instantly that this friend
had probably come from Moa to Baracoa on a fling and met her husband
at the Trova.
When I drove up to their house next morning,
they were waiting on the porch in smart looking daytime outing togs
with their bathing suits and beach towels stuffed into beach bags. They
had come to Baracoa well prepared.
When the pharmacist got into the front seat
with me, the big sister made a show of putting her hands on her hips
and climbed into the back with her sister and whispered. The sister
laughed but she always had the air of an amused observer, and her few
comments and chuckles looked and sounded private. The big sister, her
chin on her crossed arms braced between the two front headrests, asked
why I didn't know how to dance. Anybody can dance, I said, turning right
down the malecon because it's easier to follow the western hemisphere's
first malecon south than to trace the oddly switching main street route
I almost missed it that I had to turn the wrong
way to go around the old south fort before leaving town. I told her
dancing is a feminine show. Some men are talented, but who wants to
watch them? I'd rather watch her dance than look foolish. Also, I'm
old and my back could go out.
"You're not old," she said. "You're
"He's not timid," the pharmacist said,
and I saw the big sister in my mirror give her a look, and when the
little sister echoed, "No es," the look was tossed back to
"Neither brave nor timid" (No tiene
corage?"). "I'm not Fidel, but..." ("Nobody's Fidel,"
said the militant) "...but Fidel's not me, either..." ("La
verdad," said the little sister to herself).
"Que pasa? I thought you were going to
be my boyfriend. What's been going on while I was dancing?"
("Callete!" said her sister) ("He doesn't have to dance,"
said the pharmacist) "Pues, bueno, but, listen, you can, uh..."
"I'm going to stop and take a picture of
the jungle," I said, because we were on the side road to Yumuri.
A little later, we got to Yumuri and, right before the bridge over the
river, I turned off the pavement and eased down a steep bank to a sandy
street where they opened the windows and started asking everyone we
passed where their friend lived as we rolled slowly between the edge
of the river mouth and the village and then circled with the water's
edge away from the river mouth along a protected coast with little waves,
still close in front of the village and toward a beachy, palmy bay with
a lot of small boats riding buoys. Since it was the last house, it was
easy to find, and because some little boys had raced ahead of us, their
friend and her little girls were waiting in the road to show us where
to park in the shade under a palm cluster at the edge of the wider swimming
beach that started right there.
Too bad we didn't have a beach blanket. I might
have bought one in town. They have beach towels. But I didn't think
to ask or look. The store in Yumuri was too small. We had to make do
with the three towels they'd brought and a carpet of grass and dry leaves
leading up to a fallen palm trunk which I used as a couch back while
they swam. Their friend took time away from the stove to bring cups
and a cafetero full of coffee to us on the beach. Her girls and other
children kept us company and ran messages back and forth, such as, eventually,
that our lunch was going to be ready soon, to give my girls time to
shower and re-dress for the table.
Don't imagine I'm describing anything primitive.
The house, the table, the furniture were rustic but not primitive. The
service ware was as good as anything I have. And one advantage of total
education in Cuba is that everyone understands sanitation. I've been
sick in Cuba, but it's not likely. They even brag about the water around
Baracoa. We had big fish surrounded by small fish in a thick bed of
bright yellow rice laced with fruits and vegetables. The girls were
a little dismayed that I paid for it, since they were friends, but it
was cheap because there was no overhead except the gas the woman cooked
on. Everything was caught, gathered, or grown in Yumuri by the family
or their relatives, except beer and sodas I paid the store price for.
We ate and talked and spent the day very slowly.
That night, their last night on the town, the trio started to break up. When I got to the Trova, the big sister wasn't there. The others told me they'd all three been taken by the locals to another new dancing place I didn't know about, and they had come to the Trova to fetch me. The new place was at the top of a staircase, they said. I knew where the stairs were. I'd climbed the hill to see the homes up there in '02. There'd been a small cafe there, then.
So we drove up, but the music was just thumping white noise, the robotic stuff produced by technology out of control instead of rhythmic melodies adorned by artists with coordinated ears, fingers and sensitivity. So I told the sisters if they were going back to Moa next day, since I wanted to backtrack and see that coast again, I'd give them a ride, and the pharmacist went back to the Trova with me.
Next morning, the little sister and the pharmacist were eager to return to their beloved Moa, but the big sister wasn't in sight and had allegedly found a cheaper room for one and extended her stay. I wondered if one of the locals who had finally figured out how to capture her had a beach house and seriously needed a wife. Ah well, I thought, she's a big girl, and there's nothing to do but leave her to Baracoa. She'd picked a great place to be captured.
I like to just let my car roll slowly and fatefully through a place like Baracoa. So, leaving the little house they'd picked on Calle Marti behind, I let it roll slowly up to the street's end, made a long U-turn to give my remaining chicks a last view of the harbor mouth past the north fort, and came back back south on Maceo. Where Maceo becomes the main street, we turned west down the short steep block the bicitaxistas have to walk their taxis up with their passengers' help, immediately north past the "Bienvenidos a Baracoa" mural painted by my artist friend, then west along a bayfront street where a few small trucks almost blocked our way past some port buildings and a small fabric factory where about a dozen women do more laughing and gossiping over their sewing machines than toiling. As the street, gradually curving northward around the bay, became more residential, we passed houses with vegetable gardens in old tires on their roofs, carefully dodged bicycles as we crossed two small bridges, dipped and bounced a few more very slow, puddly, and tenuous blocks where the street has a little trouble deciding where it's going, and finally picked up a bit of speed through shady suburbs as the street became the road north.
Half an hour later, since nobody had eaten breakfast, I turned into Maguana again and found the gate really locked. When the guy who looked like a waiter responded to my horn, he told me the opposite of what the old man with the boom had said on the road to La Maquina. Here, tourists could pass but not Cubans, unless one of the girls had a certificate showing she was going to marry me.
Civilization has to walk a very fine line between the concession of rights that need to be conceded so civilization will work and vigilant respect for all the existential freedoms that individuals have the self-bestowed right to retain. The trouble with states is that they become more bureaucratic government than state, and I doubt there is such a contraption in the world staffed by very many people who can even read the first sentence in this paragraph. Cuba may come closest, but a lot of its front people don't quite get it or make it.
I realized later that the waiter looking guy thought we were there to rent a room, if that makes a difference. But thinking of the place as a restaurant with a weird moral view that treated Cuban women the way Guatemala treats its indians, I classified him as Thoreau did the tax collector, dismissed him, probably a bit rudely, put it in reverse, and started backing along the sandy road toward the decision I'd forgotten I'd made before. I suggest to Lonely Planet that they tell their readers there are friendly houses near all the pretty beaches on that coast, and that they erase the Maguana resort from the Baracoa chapter.
The woman of the first porch wasn't home, so I took the sand sideroad the taxi driver had shown me in '02 until we found someone who was, with a wide porch under a sprawling flower vine, where we had coffee, toast, quiet words, and scrambled eggs with plantains in the presence of the proud, clucking hens whose eggs we were enjoying. Though maybe pleasantly tired, I think we all felt as content as the hens resting there in the fragrant shade, but, while we ate, the girls told me that in Moa everyone is like one family, all for each other, and nobody puts on airs, and they considered it a much nicer town than Baracoa.
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