I only had two hours to explore
Holguin today – I didn’t know until I was on the van that they would stay in
Holguin for only two hours. The van had been waiting outside the hotel door
when I approached the front desk to find out into re:going to Holguin. I rushed
onto the waiting van, happy to know I can get there and back for $15.
After taking off, at first, the
van stopped at about 5 or 6 other hotels ‘along the way’ – the slow boat to
Holguin – trying unsuccessfully to pick up more tourists. As it was, there were
two other womyn and two other men already on the van, all from Holland.
The two womyn turned out to be
lesbians, a couple! So I came out for the second time! It was delightful. They had been
worried about being out in Cuba but haven’t had any trouble. I told them about
Pride next week – actually it’s a stand against homophobia apparently and it
will be on the 17th.
Holguin is actually a huge city,
about 350,000 people – and an extremely clean city from the little parts I saw
of it. We drove by the university where our tour guide said he studied
accounting, but accounting was so boring to him, he loves this job showing
tourists around not to mention he makes so much more money, as he rubs his big
We all go our separate ways, once
we’ve memorized the ‘meet-up’ place: I head down a city street and the first
thing I come across is a café where it appears there’s a meeting taking place.
I ask if I can listen and I’m told sure. The café walls are only mostly waist
high, at least the 2 sides that are bordered by the street corner. There’s a
shelf on to top edge of the wall and then open space so I could lean in and
listen without being too intrusive.
I couldn’t understand much all
the chairs placed in rows facing the front were all filled. Men outnumbered
womyn 2 to 1 at least with all ages and all skin hues asking questions and
In the front of the room, in the
corner was a huge Cuban flag and three men sitting alongside it and behind a
table. One was a deep dark chocolate, the middle guy was a polished walnut, and
the last guy a cappuccino brown – I wonder if it was intentionally designed
that way. They all talked way to fast and intensely for me to follow. But I did
hear words like “cuidado”, “peligroso”, and “estados undios” and not
necessarily together or in that order.
I keep walking. The next thing I
see is another university. I spoke with the womon there who told me students
study free anything they want, culture, history, medicine. When I asked her
about womyn growing organic on a collective, she didn’t know. But she did know
about next week’s stand against homophobia – she’s the one who clarified the
purpose of the gathering on Tuesday. I a sked her if there was a lot of
homophobia in Holguin and she said not any more. Another man who had come to
help agreed with her and said one of Raul’s daughters has been working hard to
end homophobia in Cuba.
After the university, I kept
walking away from the town square – the streets seem to be mostly one way and
not very much traffic with again, horses and carts sharing space with
bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars: vintage u.s. and newer german, Korean, and
I am struck by how clean the
streets are. The buildings themselves remind me of Mexico with their iron
trims, bright colors, low heights. I try to peer in to see if I can see a
square but can’t see any.
Some folks are playing dominoes,
some reading newspapers, others crowded around a color tv watching soccer. Many
people have made the front window or doorway space into a small tienda,
sometimes selling only 20 items on a tray or other times having maybe 6 pieces
of clothing hanging on the wall.
I also see lots of signs “Room
for rent” and even one sign that I think is for a hostel. I had to leave in
such a rush to catch the only bus going to Holguin today that I forgot my water
so I’m forced to buy a plastic bottle. It is inside the photo shop, which took
me three tries to find even though everyone pointed in that direction and said
‘on the corner’.
I’m also looking for an outdoor
market where I’ve been told many of the vendors selling veggies and fruit are
womyn who bring the produce from their gardens. I don’t find the marketplace
but I do find a kind of indoor market place comprised of many vendors selling
different touristy things.
I find a young man selling
paintings he claims his grandmother has done. I buy two little water colors and
a larger woodblock print. Amazing really – soooooooo many fabulous artists in
Cuba! And on hand-made paper. Such talent.
I make it back to the van just on
time and we head back to Guardalavaca. This time we stop at one of the many
roadside produce stands and I buy a delicious big mango – not that I need any
food but I couldn’t resist.