Crossing the Barbed Wire to Come to Havana

Luis Felipe Rojas arrived in Havana two days after having “crossed the barbed wire.”  After several phone contacts, we planned to meet in Central Park.  I remembered his Rastafarian dreadlocks.  When I arrived, I text messaged him that he could find me at the foot of the Marti Monument, as planned.  He responded with an apology, he would be there in another forty minutes.

I looked for a bench near the statue.  Some hookers were talking. I remained absorbed in an idea that was simmering for a new story.  A tourist asked a young man to photograph him.  After returning the camera, the boy offered to sell him boxes of cigars. The gentleman declined.  I continued creating in my mind.

The hookers hurried off, fleeing a police office closing in from the other end of the park.  The military sensed their evasion and kept watching them as they moved away looking down San Rafael Boulevard there at the corner of the Inglaterra Hotel.  I too kept looking as they retreated.  They were badly dressed and their bodies were not appealing.

The cop positioned himself between two cars and from there set up his surveillance point.  He approached a young black man to ask for his documents, then detained him.  Two other officers arrived, calling on their walkie talkie for the patrol car, which appeared in seconds.  They emptied the boy’s pockets, searched him thoroughly, and took him away.  On the faces of the cops I saw their pleasure in having done their duty.

In the forty minutes I waited I counted nine arrests.  All young people, black or mixed race.  When Luis Felipe showed up I felt calm: he is no longer a Rastafarian.  We gave each other the hug we deserved and I wanted to move away; I was afraid that he, because he was black, would suffer a similar fate.

We talked, sharing what had happened in our lives since our last meeting, our perspectives and fears, the beatings and threats, and of course we laughed.  We agreed to meet the next day at my house because a Mexican journalist wanted to interview us. Again we gave each other a fraternal hug and kiss.

The next afternoon, while I was waiting for him, my Mexican friend having already come, he called me on his cell and said he was on his way.  Later he sent a message that he was outside my house.  I waited a bit, and noting the delay, went to look for him, he wasn’t there.  Puzzled, I returned to the apartment and told the foreigner what had happened.

He insisted on calling Luis Felipe’s cell, but he didn’t answer.  I knew something was happening, but I didn’t want to worry my visitor.  I would about to leave again, but at that moment Luis Felipe came in.  He said he had been detained at the door of my building and they immediately took him away, to Linea Street, and there started asking him questions.  When Luis Felipe told them that several journalists were waiting for him, they decided to let him go.  Perhaps they preferred to avoid the scandal,

Then we laughed, especially when the journalist took the memory stick out of her camera to hide it and replaced it with another one with tourist shots.

That’s the best thing of all, that even after crying, we always laugh.


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