Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

h1

November 24, 2014

Hello my darling one

 

How are you?

I am tired and content and in a charmingly lit cafe in Roma Norte, Mexico City.

I am swimming in my large and swanky armchair, a glass of red sits before me and there is busy chatter all about me.
Aaahh, good times.
Hello.
It has been some time, has it not?  Perhaps not thaaaat long in real time, but I feel like I haven’t put my fingers on a keyboard for decades.It was recently Day of the Dead here and I spent the day in Mixcoac Cemetery.  It is one of the largest in the city and was so very cool that I will never again view a cemetery the same.

Hundreds of people were scrubbing tombs clean, raking the old soil, erecting fresh flower beds and leaving offerings for their dead.

 

IMG_6111   IMG_6106IMG_6109

 

Mariachi bands played sad songs for families who picnicked by graves.

IMG_6102

 

I saw one woman crying but mostly everyone seemed just delighted to be hanging out with the old crew. It seemed a true celebration of death and I loved it. Apparently, in the towns of Oaxaca and Michaocan they dine upon the graves during the night where the candle displays must be enchanting.

I bought a great big bunch of marigolds and placed single stems on the most neglected and grim-looking graves.

I have seen ofrendas all over town; altars and offerings for the dead.

 

IMG_5939 IMG_5943 IMG_5938

I visited the Dolores Olmedo Museum for their annual “ofrenda”.

Here is the butcher, the hairdresser and the shoe shiner.

 

IMG_6047IMG_6009IMG_6015

 

Dolores was loaded and a super fan of Diego, Frida and a strange breed of dog called a Xoloitzcuintle which has no hair and is almost extinct.  I actually mistook these odd-looking hounds for statues till one barked at me.  You might have seen them in one of Frida’s paintings.

dolores dog

Image courtesy pbase.com

 

Today I visited the Tenochtitlan Pyramids which are just an hour away and are truly awesome.  I spent hours out there strolling cluelessly around collecting audio snippets from the occasional tour guide and climbing up and down deep, steep steps.

 

IMG_6120

 

I first visited them in 2001.

I had planned to live here with my lover but we broke up instead and I carried on home for Christmas.

While Mexico City is undoubtedly magnificent, I couldn’t live here long as the pollution gives me a permanent headache and a dripping left nostril.  Bodies will adapt but I’d rather mine didn’t.

Tomorrow I will leave on the red-eye for another city famed for its terrible pollution, Santiago de Chile.   Three days after landing there in 1999 I lost my voice for the first time, and by mid morning the Andes disappear behind the smog.

So…Cuba eh?  I believe the last time I wrote I was on my way.

It was beautiful, lively, friendly, crumbling, green.  So many mountains, so much sugar, such delicious avocados.

 

IMG_5697 IMG_5741 IMG_5759

 

Hugo and I decided that it has everything going for it as far as a holiday destination is concerned.

IMG_5823

Coffee

 

 

IMG_5838

IMG_5816

Travelling with a gay Englishman about to embark upon another London winter had us at the beach quickly and regularly.

I rarely elect the beach but I almost found it relaxing.  All that lying flat, with all that sand.  The water was that exquisite Caribbean blue you don’t quite believe till you see it, and the temperature divine. I knocked back three books; one about the Cuban mafia in Havana which was fairly saucy.

It was hard in Havana to escape conversation, to the point that it drove us a little barmy.  So barmy in fact that when we returned Hugo turned us into Russians having spent 6 months in Moscow so could slip some words in while I kept dead quiet.  “Where are you from? Where are you from?” does get tiresome after the 67th time. “Niet, niet”.

Three women just turned up to this restaurant wearing fake fur.  It is cold but not that cold.

We scaled Cuba by bus and by car staying every night in the houses of Cuban locals.

We drank good rum in super sugary cocktails and chatted up the locals around the country usually steering clear of political opinions, both theirs and ours. Some people in Havana however, were particularly keen to tell us how hard they had it.  And they certainly do look undernourished.  Thank god for the cucumber and the avocado.

We swam under waterfalls with hummingbirds and woodpeckers.

Every second person was a doctor.

The toothbrushes and guitar strings were a hit though I wish I’d had some usb memory sticks for them.

Our favourite province was Granma, named after the boat that Fidel and his mates snuck in on from Mexico. The previous owner was an American chap who named it after Granny.

Sweet and proud Jose led us through the swampy Parque Nacional Desembarco de Granma (Granny’s National Park of the Disembarcation) where the revolutionaries had once hacked their way through.

 

IMG_5809IMG_5811

We walked through the Gran Sierra Mountains to their old treehouse hideouts in the Comandancia de la Plata,  and up to the site of the Radio Rebelde without which there’d have been no revolution.  It felt quite extraordinary and I felt very privileged hiking amongst it.

Treehouse cuba

Image courtesy alternativacuba-cast.blogspot.com

IMG_5764

To die for patriotism is to live

IMG_5855

Socialism or Death

 

 

We also loved the music capital Santiago de Cuba where I gave my drippy salsa a run for its money.  It was a chilled out Havana.

 

A man at the table with the furs just started to talk about Burning Man.

“Se llama Black Rock City. Es una locura.”

There is a man standing on the footpath here selling stuffed bears. Everyone seems to be street selling here in Mexico.

I know my photography is just awful, but if you look closely, these below are both Cuban butchers.

 

IMG_5843       IMG_5771

 

Tea was tricky to come by so I took up coffee again (3 teaspoons a day) and on my final day I found this cafe in Havana which boasted tea.  It took her 10 minutes to brew it and then she threw in loads of sugar without asking. Yuck, but what are you going to do?

 

IMG_5920

 

Mexico is currently in great distress because 43 protesting students were last seen being pushed into vans up in the northern town Iguala, and the search continues for their bodies. It dominates almost every conversation and people continue to march while they keep stumbling upon mass graves of other people.  Apparently the town mayor gave the word for them to disappear so that they wouldn’t interrupt his wife’s speech and the crooked pair were found hiding out in Mexico City just this morning.

It is not a happy tale to end on, sorry.

I know I owe you about the desert in San Luis Potosi.  I’ll get there, I promise. There must be other tales I am forgetting to tell you too.

I am home to Sydney soon, with just a night in Valparaiso and five more back in Buenos Aires where I’ll put the doggie Monalisa on a plane.

 

All my love to you

k xxo

 

p.s.  a few hours later…..

I approached that table as I left the restaurant…”sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help hearing you say something about Burning Man??…”

He hadn’t been but is desperate to and we are all now Facebook friends.  The three women are from Mexicali in Baja California which they all agreed is probably the most awful town in Mexico but with the friendliest people. The chap somehow ended up there a decade earlier where he met his fur clad mates while lost in the street.

He is an artist and has invited me to Cuernavaca tomorrow; “the land of eternal spring,” saying the drive past 18 volcanoes is worth the journey alone. My flight isn’t till midnight, so why not?

Advertisements