Cuba Libre

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One afternoon I walked down to inspect the monument to the Maine in its little traffic island on the Malecon. I was thinking about my country’s negligent, heartless, and seldom heroic role in Cuba. The monument, the eagle atop it long gone, looked as forlorn as a lone tree on a stormy shore. Its inscriptions, which have been altered in the fashion of the revolutionary placards in George Orwell’s Animal Farm , describe the men who died on the Maine as victims sacrificed to the cause of American imperialism.

Nearby, on the sea wall, a young man and a woman were sitting close together, staring into the ocean haze alone the invisible coast of Florida. A kid in blue jeans and a white T-shirt spotted me and cut across the boulevard to offer me (for dollars) a contraband cigar. A biker pedaled past without turning his head.

The monument that symbolized a moment of repose in the indifferent, humiliating centuries has become instead a monument to mistrust, a meeting place of strangers on the make.

Havana, Then and Now