76. A MUSEUM GUIDE: Unable to find a paladar where I'd eaten in '00 and '01, I went into a museum in the home of two martyred sisters I still know nothing of, to ask directions.
But before I could ask, the woman in front signaled an imposing young woman who said, "Follow me," and I followed her switching hips through a long inner patio to a room in back, with a chair and a camera.
"Sit in this chair and face the camera."
She laughed at herself, and started to show me the exhibit. I went along with it until the picture of the girls' parents, when I had to tell her they were the wrong parents. They were both white, the girls were mulatas. In Cuba that was only interesting because the girls had died in '58, before the revolution ended racism.
My guide smirked and said it wasn't part of her official spiel. But she showed me other pix that proved my point. "What's your name?" I asked, and she spilled it all, name, age, how many kids, and she was on her second husband, and what about me?
When she heard of my survey, it opened her flood gates. I thought she'd never stop. Sometimes, I got to speak.
Did I want to know why she signed? Did I know what it's like in Haiti? In Nicaragua? In Brazil? Well, she told me. She saw it on TV. Listen. No Cuban is hungry. There are necessities but nothing serious. We don't have flies crawling on our faces. We don't have cops beating us up. Don't believe the jinoteros. They're just liars who don't want to work. And the Miamistas and their puppets in Cuba? They're just another kind of jinotero. The jinoteros work harder trying not to work than they would work working. And the gusanos make themselves unhappier complaining than they would be participating. She knew the kind of people who are always saying, fuck Cuba, and fuck Fidel. Well she said, fuck them. If they don't like it here, they should go to Miami, and if they meet a shark, good for the shark! And if they don't meet a shark, what will they get in Miami? Expensive toys? They're stupid. Listen. Cuba is fine just the way it is.
"Some people tell me they need dollars to buy things they need, like soap," I injected quickly.
Like soap? Everybody has soap. Like platform shoes and ridiculous gowns and jewelry, you mean. Look at me. She pointed at everything she wore, telling me what it cost and where or how she got it. I wasn't sure if I was touring her clothes or what was in them, which looked very good; but the clothes were OK, too.
She lives on her salary and her husband's salary and the ration, and they are doing fine. Some things are hard. It isn't perfect. "Hay que sacrificiar." But they can save money even. Look. OK. I looked again. This skirt cost 13 pesos. This blouse cost 8.50. Listen. Cubans like to eat. And Cubans eat. Do I look like I don't eat? She certainly didn't. Do you see anyone who looks like they don't eat? We're OK here.
"Militante? Yo? No. Consciencia? No. Fidelista. Pero, si, Comunista, socialista, Fidelista" She talked for an hour and a half, and when I finally found out where the paladar was and was leaving, she said "Make sure you come back and talk to me again."
I said I'd try.