The city of Havana. The myth of lost Atlantis. Emilia Brandt
It came to my mind the myth of the city of Atlantis (a settlement developed beyond our capacity of imagination, economically prosper, which in a certain moment and under unknown conditions, must have sinked on the bottom of the ocean and still waiting to be rediscovered, somewhere underwater) as metaphor for what one would expect to see and experience by visiting the city of Havana and what one will actually find in there.
When I decided to visit Havana, I didn’t expected to find the best Ron, neither the best Cuba Libre, nor the best Mojito or the best Habaneros, and nonetheless a city which should be caught in time since one particular moment of his Golden Age history. Nor did I found any of them.
Nothing remains caught in time. Not the buildings, nor the cars (the so famous old-timers that are taking the tourists on a rise across the city), neither the people. In stead I food the decay. The traces of the time that bites, erodes and gradually is taking everything to its unavoidable ending. There is only the facade left to see from the once monumental architecture which should have been emblematic for the city, washed by heavy rain and caribbean sunlight, marked by the passing of the hurricane and helot by wooden sticks and propaganda poster promising the advance towards a „Flourishing and sustainable socialism“ or marking the identity of the people with its former leader „Yo soy Fidel“ (I am Fidel). But not even him nor his memory can stop anymore the advance of the city to its unavoidable turning into ruin.
i did found the garbage, adding itself with every passing day to mountains who’s altitude compete with the hight of the surrounding buildings, allowing flies and street cats to find their home and food. A non-functional infrastructure, victim of the passing of the time and ignorance, allowing un-clean water (from domestic use) find its way to the street and afterwords into the sea. Empty shelters in supermarkets and grocery stores, offering alcohol, soft drinks and cigarettes for cheep prices but almost nothing to eat, and state owned centers for sharing food products based on state established ratios, which are very common for communist countries.
From the myth of the city where the time stood still, with its architecture and old flair of distant passed time, there is nothing more left to see then the facade, like the nickel of the famous cuban old-timers, from which there is only the metal cover left, and having inside „that what one can find“: the motor from there, some other small parts from some other place and wheals from who knows what other vehicle, that didn’t needed anymore.
and in the middle of the erosion and poverty, one can find nice people, polite an always happy to help with what they can: some recommendation, street indication and curiously neither will they make you feel guilt for violating their privacy through the lens of your camera. Mostly they will remain quiet. They will not easily speak about politics, neither about how difficult the life in Cuba should be. „We are in Cuba! Everything is fine in Cuba!“ some would say. They have all they need. they have to eat and they are free to travel – to present time to Russia and Serbia, but they are not so interested in these countries. „It is better this way“ – I was said – „The cuban is like the chinese! Give him the freedom to travel, and will all go out of the country. You will find a cuban everywhere in the world“.
the little hope for opening, brought by the friendly politics of Obama, was quickly forgotten once with the new position of the Trump government, and therefore even the „Big threat“ of the McDonald’s invasion in Cuba has faded. It remained the same Cuba as before, with the same preoccupation for finding the necessary for everyday life, with the enthusiastic tourists which are coming in search for the best parties, the best Ron, cuba Libre, Mojito and cheep cuban cigars, and a country where the time stood still decades ago: and the perpetual and irreversible process of erosion.
Not a place caught in time have I found in Havana, but a city trapped between ignorance and the unavoidable passing of the time. A people kept prison into its own country, to whom it is denied the right to improve the quality of life (sufficient and healthy food, clean air and water etc) under the excuse of the „social equality“ and the symbol of the „Grate Cuban Revolution“ against the invasive american capitalism, enthusiasm of which there is only the rain washed prints on the walls left to see.