The People – kind, bright, gracious.
In Cuba, time is not money, money is not time. The people have not realised that they should exact a money price for the gift of time. Time is not (yet) a commodity. It remains a gift.
The Body – in Cuba, the body is nowhere repressed; everywhere it is expressed, accepted, celebrated. A fat, fat lady will wear body-defining lycra, in stripes that accentuate her plenitude. She hears music, and like everyone else, she’ll dance. It hasn’t occurred to her that she is unfeminine, unpretty, not sexy. (Marie Claire costs twice her weekly earnings, so she hasn’t read the truth about her body.) So she lives and dances, innocent of the truth. An unliberated woman.
A man stands facing us in a public place, his eyes and mind are elsewhere. Idly he scratches his balls. He takes his time, doing the job thoroughly. Like a long-legged fly upon the stream, his mind moves upon silence. He finishes his scratching, looks up, his eyes and mine lock, while Annette looks away to spare him embarrassment. She need not bother: the man looks into the distance again and loosens his three piece set from the grip of his undies.
The cityscape of La Habana – so rich in architectural beauty, frequently neglected, never abased.
The pride of these humble people. There is no cultural cringe in Cuba, no sense that authentic life lies somewhere else. What they lack, what exists across the sea, is affluence, not life.
A feeling of security wherever we go in Cuba. No street is too dark and lonely to walk. Encounters with strangers are not alarming.
They say there is petty crime against property, but we see no sign of it. Crime against persons is rare.
(Perhaps, after the embargo, things will change: the Mafia will return, and introduce World’s Best Practice.)
The black Cubans – tall, beautifully made men and women, the men broad, the women slender. They carry themselves like aristocrats, their movement fluid and graceful.
The music – it is everywhere, and almost everywhere it’s live – performed before you or beside you or behind you. You can’t eat or drink, shop or walk without a chance encounter with music.
The music is of the people: it creates them as much as they create the music.
A music scholar wrote that Afrocuban music is the fruit of the love affair between the Spanish guitar and the African drum.
Music and pride are mutual creations in Cuba. Cubans know that their small nation creates a musical gift enjoyed and valued far beyond their homeland.
The Spanish Language – they’ve got words in Spanish for just about everything: it’s a whole nother language, you might say, and a wholly beautiful language. And the Cubans don’t laugh at you when you try to speak it.