Havana winter

The sky is not always that precious blue of the tourist postcards.  Thank goodness, because I can not imagine a year with scorching sun without the pause of these weeks that bring cold fronts.  Since Monday a cloud has come, bringing London to Havana and severe flooding in the east of the country.  The streets are remarkably empty at night because the cold scares away the usual denizens of the parks and sidewalks.  Boarding a crowded bus is no longer the fastest way to acquire odor in one’s armpits, rather the entrance to a warm and friendly space.  With the low temperatures, humor and tolerance improve; for the old, their bones ache and hot chocolate becomes a recurring hallucination.  December is so close that it’s not worth starting anything, say those who have postponed projects throughout the year.  The time to spend more is coming, presaging that pockets will be especially empty this Christmas.  However, the most sensitive topic is that of coats and blankets, the little protection from the damp cold that enters through the gaps in the windows.

I see people on the street with sweaters and thick, padded synthetic coats, but none of these garments could be purchased with the wages they earn from their work.  One has a leather coat sent to him by a sister who lives in New York and the striped one was given to the girl as a gift from a tourist passing through the city.  A young boy has a waterproof raincoat inherited from his brother, who in turn got it from an uncle who confiscates luggage at customs.  The old woman crossing the street is careful of her wool socks, which she got from a neighbor in exchange for a  blender.  Only the guard at the hotel boasts a denim jacket, with shiny new buttons.

I like the winter and the affability it awakens in people, but I know that for many it’s the season of certain worries and shame.  Of not being able to sleep on the park bench, where the rest of the year one gentleman with raggedy clothes has his only home.  Of children mocked in school for wearing a coat purchased during the rationing of the 1980s.  The cold emphasizes the differences between those who can close the door and those who don’t have a house with windows that shut.  It highlights the contrast between those with a long-sleeved garment and those who wear two sweaters because they don’t have a coat.   Everything depends on the thermometer and its not dropping another ten degrees, because the housing and clothes of the poor will not withstand a single snowflake.


  1. Yoani needs to win, she’s our daily webcam in Havana.
    Thanks for your article about ” Winter in Havana” but that’s not the Havana I like,
    my Havana is “mi Habana caliente”.
    All the best

  2. Yoani, I took the liberty of posting this entry on my blog because I wanted some people to see how contrasting things can be, depending on where you’re standing.
    Hope you don’t mind. If you do, please let me know and I will bring it down.
    I have you on my reader and read you all the time.

  3. Your writing reminds me of the writing of Pablo Neruda. It deals with the common every day things most people overlook and points out how the affect ones life. Our lives are these everyday things, and so many people look by them. I appreciate your observations. I have many of my students in the U.S. read them to see the “real” day to day life in Cuba and the effect even little things they hardly notice have on people. You present a view we do not get in the U.S. Hopefully it makes us all less blind to the suffering all around us.


  4. You deserve all the praise you receive and the admiration of those that read your blog but above all the applause of those of us who are free to express ourselves and wish you health, happiness, luck and the continued strength and conviction that you so courageously exhibit in your writings.

  5. Hey Vic, have some respect. Do you know what it is like to live in a hot humid climate? We feel the same thing in New Orleans. When that first cool front comes through, usually not until early October, it is a big relief. Personally, I think a high of 85 and a low of 65 with low humidity is the best weather there is. But for many months we don’t get that, and I am sure it is worse in Havana as they are 600 miles south of us. I mean, who really cares what YOU like?

  6. This is such a beautiful site. I cannot imagine the great lengths you go to publish it. I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to put you in my blogroll and link to you.

    Members of my own family must suffer from Communism in Vietnam. In Saigon, they are finally getting food to eat, but they still cannot express their real views or post anything like you do. I’m sorry that you have to endure so much. You are an example that we should all live by.

    Katy Benningfield
    Raleigh NC USA

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