My House, My City

In Havana, in a neighborhood called La Víbora, there was a house from the turn of the century. It once had dance floors, secret rooms, spiral staircases, cathedral ceilings with tile borders, an entrance filled with jasmine and lilies, and a patio with a pair of marvelous mango trees.

La Víbora was once an aristocratic neighborhood where the stately homes competed with each other to see which had the most inviting entrance or the most beautiful patio, some with fountains, others with marble benches, others with flower gardens, others with Greek columns. This is the setting of my childhood.

Later, I moved to a neighborhood called El Vedado, to a small apartment in a strange art deco building. The windows were disproportionately large and looked out on the ocean.

Havana, like all of Cuba, seduces you with its salty air, its brilliant sun, its bold people, and its promiscuous architecture. Perhaps the image that most stays with the traveler is the long walkway that looks out on the ocean, the famous jetty where every Havanan has once kissed someone with the celestine complicity of the waves.

Havana is, even as it falls to pieces, the most beautiful and beloved city in the world.