I slept nearly 11 hours last night, which is unheard of for me.
I woke up this morning and took my breakfast in the street, a shot of thick, syrupy sweet coffee decanted and consumed in a crumbling doorway. Caffinated and high from an unhealthy dose of sugar, I proceeded to the Museo de la Revolucion.
This opulent building recalls some misplaced Viennese palace. It is indeed the former presidential palace, preserving 1959, but the bullet holes in the courtyard and stairwell from a rebel attack spoil some of the stately je ne sais quoi. It’s a perverse touch that Batista’s official residence is now a shrine to the anti-imperialist revolution which overthrew his American-backed regime. The museum features the expected amount of lionization for Che, Raul, Camilo, and Fidel, including pairs of pants and hats worn by each man and plenty of laudatory headlines from the party newsletter declaiming their great feats.
One highlight is Granma, the pleasure yacht that carried the revolutionaries out of self imposed exile in Mexico in 1957. From here, the commandates kicked the revolution into high gear. Maybe most impressive is the fact that the museum contains two Soviet-made tanks (“the best in the world in 1945” one sign proudly notes), both of which feature plaques claiming to be the one used by Fidel to damage a US supply ship during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
But maybe he needed two tanks to carry out that feat, sixteen years after its alleged prime. What do I know?
The entire time I was in the museum, I was under the false impression it was an hour earlier than it was, that Cuba, for some dogmatic, yet inscrutable reason does not observe daylight savings time. A guy selling knick knacks sets me straight, letting me know that both Fidel and I have been living in the past…
I spend the afternoon wandering the tourist section of Old Havana with my friends Gia and Jimmy, who are coincidentally here in Cuba at the same time that I am. They’ve just arrived from the airport, so it’s interesting to compare their initial impressions with my seasoned, day-old ruminations. Jimmy has an affable way and is immediately drawn into conversation with the various cigar hawkers who come our way. Gia’s Greek accent leads a few such folks to venture to say what they really think about Americans – a big thumbs down, “but we love the Greeks!”
Was it Paul Simon who said to love the one you’re with?
In that case, I’m loving the surprisingly talented musicians in this tourist bar, a quartet playing some tight Cuban music.