Sordidness

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Habanero Boulevard, on Wednesday night, was the stage for a couple with their son, looking for a little fresh air.  It is only nine o’clock, but judging by the atmosphere it seems like three in the morning.  The smell of urine from every corner confirms that the drunks have started early and that public bathrooms continue to be an illusion.  The abundance of prostitutes causes the mother to hurry through the passage, but the child manages to witness a very direct transaction between a pimp, his “girlfriend” and a tourist.

They have not chosen their route well.  Better they should have taken the bus to Miramar and strolled along 5th Avenue, or stayed home and taken the air from their own balcony.  They go in search of Central Park, but beyond the circle of light surrounding the statue of Martí extends a zone of shadows, propitious to amorous pursuits.  This scandalizes no one as it has been many years since this city has had motels where couples can go.  Sex on a bench in the park is part of the amorous arts for those with no room of their own.

The police are integrated into this sordid nocturnal landscape, and the parents already regret taking their son through this border zone between Central Havana and the historic district.  Each luxurious interior, such as the lobbies of the Telégrafo, Saratoga, Plaza and Central Park hotels, has its counterpart in the dark streets surrounding it.  For each few centimeters of glamour there are meters and meters of crushing poverty.

The little boy only has eyes for the steaming cappuccino that a foreigner, accompanied by two very young girls, is drinking in the La Francia cafe.  From the eyes of a child, the Havana night appears as a succession of light and shadow, of customers who consume and spectators who watch them drink, of blue uniforms who monitor and the specters who evade them, of corners with gorgeous faces and others it is better not to know.

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