From the Tha­mes to the Ca­rib­bean

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - Habana 500 -

DU­RING THE ELE­VEN MONTHS THAT THE BRI­TISH OCCUPATION SPANNED, CU­BA

LI­VED AN INTENSE ECONOMIC BOOM ENCOURAGED BY SE­VE­RAL MEASURES TA­KEN BY THE EN­GLISH RULERS. CEN­TU­RIES LATER, TRACES OF THAT PRESENCE STILL

LINGER IN THE CU­BAN IMAGINATION

Wit­hout any at­tempt to ap­peal to re­vi­sio­nism, the in­de­li­ble nature of his­tory en­tails the as­so­cia­tion –as a mi­les­to­ne of the Bri­tish presence in Cu­ba- to the brief stay they had on the is­land fo­llo­wing their sei­zu­re of Ha­va­na back in 1762. Amid the un­wa­ve­ring need to con­si­der tho­se Bri­tish for­ces as foes back in the day, it's still worthw­hi­le to re­cog­ni­ze the genuine pri­de shown by the Bri­tish of­fi­cers, es­pe­cially in the fa­ce of coura­geo­us Cap­tain Luis Vicente Ve­las­co, one of the most outs­tan­ding com­man­ders of the Spa­nish Ro­yal Navy, who died he­roi­cally whi­le de­fen­ding the Castle of the Th­ree Kings of El Mo­rro.

But, the Cu­ban cha­rac­ter bloo­med in the fa­ce of ad­ver­se cir­cums­tan­ces. The lo­cals could not re­frain from ma­king the most of what had hap­pe­ned in an ef­fort to en­rich our ver­na­cu­lar heritage. That Bri­tish occupation pa­ved the way for a num­ber of ex­pres­sions that ha­ve li­ved out to da­te in our po­pu­lar speech, such as “la ho­ra de los ma­me­yes” (the ti­me of the ma­meys) to warn the mo­ment when the En­glish oc­cu­piers sho­wed up al­ways dres­sed in their red­dish uni­forms and coats, si­mi­lar in co­lor to the pulp of that de­li­cious tro­pi­cal fruit ca­lled ma­mey. For analogy with the le­gen­dary bra­very sho­wed du­ring the Bri­tish occupation by mi­li­tia­man Jo­sé Antonio Gó­mez de Bu­llo­nes, al­so known as “Pe­pe Antonio”, the ex­pres­sion “ha­cer las co­sas de a Pe­pe” (do things Pe­pe's way) pop­ped out, mea­ning to act by for­ce or con­trary to an or­der. Al­so, even if you we­re a sup­por­ter of the Spa­niards or if you main­tai­ned an at­ti­tu­de in fa­vor of the En­glish, you we­re as­ked back then if “you we­re wor­king for the En­glish­men?

EN­GLISH MASONRY IN CU­BA

The ori­gins of this fra­ter­nity on the is­land harks back to a do­cu­ment da­ted in 1763 du­ring the Bri­tish occupation, is­sued by the 218 En­glish Mi­li­tary Lod­ge of the re­gistry of Ire­land, as­cri­bed to Re­gi­ment 48 of this ar­med body. It is a cer­ti­fi­ca­te of Mas­ter De­gree on behalf of Ale­xan­der Cock­burn. The French presence in the la­te 18th and early 19th cen­tu­ries encouraged and ex­ten­ded the crea­tion of the first Cu­ban lod­ges, as well as the foun­da­tion of the 103 Tem­ple of the Theo­lo­gi­cal Vir­tues in Ha­va­na, on De­cem­ber 17, 1804. The lat­ter was gran­ted the pa­tent of re­cog­ni­tion from the Grand Lod­ge of Pennsyl­va­nia. Ho­we­ver, the prac­ti­ce of the York and Scot­tish ri­tes in our country still con­ti­nues to­day.

MUSIC JINGLES FOR ICE CREAM AND CHIL­DREN’S GAMES

Wit­hout ha­ving the sligh­test idea about the titles of cer­tain mu­si­cal pie­ces, or their aut­hors and ly­rics, sin­ce the mid-20th cen­tury Cu­bans –li­ke much of the world- quickly iden­tify the pro­xi­mity of ice cream carts. A ste­reoty­pi­cal polyp­hony in to­nes cha­rac­te­ri­zes the ad­ver­ti­ser's so­no­rity of this al­ways-well-re­cei­ved mer­chan­di­se. Uni­ver­sa­li­zed per­haps by for­ce of ha­bit, the­mes such as: Ho­me Sweet Ho­me; Oh, My Dar­ling Cle­men­ti­ne; Oh, Su­san­na; Happy Birth­day or so­me ot­her ex­cerpt from the great

BRIN­DAR POR CU­BA

Rei­te­rar no siem­pre acu­sa si­no­ni­mia de li­mi­ta­da te­nen­cia. Su­ce­de, en reali­dad, con las co­sas que ha­cen épo­ca, re­sul­tan inevi­ta­ble­men­te dig­nas de ser evo­ca­das. Así se nos ma­ni­fies­ta la no­ve­la del afa­ma­do es­cri­tor bri­tá­ni­co Graham Gree­ne, Nues­tro hom­bre en La Ha­ba­na, lle­va­da con igual nom­bre a la ci­ne­ma­to­gra­fía uni­ver­sal. Va­rias de las lo­ca­cio­nes don­de tu­vo lu­gar el ro­da­je de es­te fil­me guar­dan re­la­ción con el buen be­ber cu­bano. En uno de los pa­sa­jes de es­ta obra se pre­sen­ta la si­guien­te des­crip­ción:

«En el bar Sloppy Joe´s, Wor­mold fue apro­ba­do por el ser­vi­cio bri­tá­ni­co” (…) “Por al­gu­na cau­sa, esa ma­ña­na no te­nía de­seos de en­con­trar­se con el doc­tor Has­sel­ba­cher pa­ra el re­fres­can­te dai­qui­rí ma­ti­nal. Al­gu­nas ve­ces el doc­tor se mos­tra­ba un tan­to de­ma­sia­do ale­gre, de mo­do que se de­tu­vo un mo­men­to en el Sloppy Joe’s en lu­gar de ir al Won­der Bar”.

Tan res­pe­ta­bles han si­do los ba­res cu­ba­nos que el mis­mí­si­mo Henry Graham Gree­ne (1904 – 1991), lle­gó a de­cir:“Co­noz­co el bar de hom­bres en el Wal­dorf As­to­ria; el Bar Sa­voy, en Lon­dres; y el Bar Ame­ri­cano, en Pa­rís. He to­ma­do Whis­key en Shep­heards; Gi­ne­bra y An­gos­tu­ras en el Gran Orien­tal, en Cal­cu­ta. Co­noz­co los Pis­cos Sours del Ho­tel Ca­rre­ra, en Cu­ra­zao. He vi­si­ta­do el Ad­lon, en Ber­lín; el Bris­tol, en Vie­na; la ca­sa Chian­ling, en Chung­king; el Pla­za, en Bue­nos Ai­res. Pe­ro, den­tro de mi ex­pe­rien­cia,“La Flo­ri­da”(hoy Flo­ri­di­ta), es el má­xi­mo bar en la tie­rra.”

¿Y LA MÚ­SI­CA, QUÉ?

La his­to­ria de las ar­tes ha de­mos­tra­do, se­cu­lar­men­te, que la ge­nia­li­dad en sus pri­me­ros pa­sos va es­col­ta­da por el es­cep­ti­cis­mo y la fal­ta de cos­tum­bre que por lo ge­ne­ral sus­ci­tan la au­da­cia, lo no­ve­do­so y la in­mi­nen­te po­si­ción de per­ci­bir­se co­mo ajeno a los mo­de­los so­cia­les vi­gen­tes. Así acon­te­cía cuan­do los jó­ve­nes “de an­tes” fi­lo­so­fa­ban, has­ta bien avan­za­das las úl­ti­mas dé­ca­das del si­glo XX, so­bre la su­pre­ma­cía de Los Beatles, Ro­lling Sto­ne, Le­dZe­pe­llin y Deep Blue. Na­da ca­ren­te de po­lé­mi­cas tran­si­tó el pro­ce­so de asi­mi­la­ción ofi­cial de es­tas an­gló­fo­nas agru­pa­cio­nes, has­ta lo­grar el res­pal­do por con­ven­ci­da acep­ta­bi­li­dad de quie­nes les co­rres­pon­dió com­pren­der­los en Cu­ba: me­dios, crea­do­res e in­tér­pre­tes mu­si­ca­les, ar­tis­tas de la plás­ti­ca, ci­neas­tas, ci­né­fi­los, es­cri­to­res, poe­tas y au­to­ri­da­des (in­clu­si­ve) com­ple­men­ta­ron las pre­fe­ren­cias de le­gio­nes de los fans in­su­la­res.

¿SE SIEN­TEN BIEN EN­TRE LOS CU­BA­NOS?

Ade­más del com­por­ta­mien­to del mer­ca­do tu­rís­ti­co in­glés, con sos­te­ni­do cre­ci­mien­to es­ta­dís­ti­co –ca­si du­pli­ca­do– des­de 2014 has­ta 2017, des­ta­ca la fi­de­li­za­ción de es­tos vi­si­tan­tes en va­rias ins­ta­la­cio­nes ho­te­le­ras de la ma­yor de Las An­ti­llas. Va­rias en­ti­da­des tu­rís­ti­cas in­gle­sas ope­ran con Cu­ba, co­mo la As­so­cia­tion of Bri­tish Tra­vel Agents (ABTA), Tho­mas Cook y Bri­tish Air­ways, al igual que han brin­da­do va­lio­sas ac­cio­nes de ca­pa­ci­ta­ción pa­ra el per­so­nal que se desem­pe­ña en la in­dus­tria cu­ba­na de la hos­pi­ta­li­dad.

Por cuan­to in­glés vi­si­te a es­ta Isla Gran­de, no se nos po­drá ne­gar que apos­te­mos por una ex­pre­sión si­mi­lar a la de Mc. Cart­ney, en oca­sión de su inusi­ta­da pre­sen­cia: «¡Gra­cias. To­do bien!» O, igual de pla­cen­te­ra­men­te re­ci­bi­do, lo ex­cla­ma­do por Mick Jag­ger, en oca­sión del con­cier­to de Los Ro­lling Sto­nes, ofre­ci­do el 26 de mar­zo de 2016, an­te cien­tos de mi­les de en­tu­sias­tas es­pec­ta­do­res: «¡Ho­la Ha­ba­na, bue­nas no­ches, mi gen­te de Cu­ba!». Eu­ro­pean clas­sics, act as ca­talysts of the joy of ea­ting the icy de­li­ca­cies. And wit­hin the­se ar­ti­fi­ces of music mar­ke­ting, the pie­ce Lon­don Brid­ge Is Fa­lling Down, which da­tes back to 1774 and des­cri­bes with a sticky song the fall and re­cons­truc­tion of the fa­mous Lon­don Brid­ge, is al­so heard in the streets of Ha­va­na. It was al­so sung in Cu­ba, in ele­men­tary schools, as part of chil­dren's games and as an edu­ca­tio­nal re­sour­ce to exer­ci­se the En­glish lan­gua­ge:

Lon­don Brid­ge is fa­lling down / Fa­lling down, fa­lling down / Lon­don Brid­ge is fa­lling down, My fair lady

TOAST TO CU­BA

Rei­te­ra­tion is not al­ways sy­nony­mous of li­mi­ted te­nu­re. It hap­pens, in fact, with things that mark a ti­me and are inevi­tably worthy of being evo­ked. That's the ca­se of the no­vel Our Man in Ha­va­na, by ce­le­bra­ted Bri­tish aut­hor Graham Gree­ne, ta­ken to the big screen un­der that sa­me na­me. Se­ve­ral of the lo­ca­tions whe­re the shoo­ting of this mo­vie took pla­ce are re­la­ted to good Cu­ban drin­king. In one of the pas­sa­ges of this work, the fo­llo­wing des­crip­tion is pre­sen­ted:

“At the Sloppy Joe's Bar, Wor­mold was ap­pro­ved by the Bri­tish ser­vi­ce” (...) “For so­me reason that mor­ning he had no wish to meet Dr. Has­sel­ba­cher for his mor­ning dai­qui­ri… so he loo­ked in at Sloppy Joe's ins­tead of at the Won­der Bar.”

So res­pec­ta­ble the Cu­ban bars ha­ve be­co­me that Henry Graham Gree­ne him­self (1904-1991), had to say: “I know the bar of men in the Wal­dorf As­to­ria, the Bar Sa­voy in Lon­don, and the Ame­ri­can Bar in Pa­ris. I ha­ve drunk Whis­key in Shep­heards; Gin and An­gos­tu­ra at the Great Orien­tal in Cal­cut­ta. I know the Pis­co Sours of the Ho­tel Ca­rre­ra in Cu­ra­cao. I ha­ve vi­si­ted the Ad­lon in Ber­lin, the Bris­tol in Vien­na, the Chian­ling Hou­se in Chung­king, the Pla­za in Bue­nos Ai­res. But, in my experience, “La Flo­ri­da” (to­day Flo­ri­di­ta) is the grea­test bar on earth.”

AND WHAT ABOUT MUSIC?

The his­tory of the arts has se­cu­larly shown that ge­nia­lity's baby steps al­ways co­me along with skep­ti­cism and the lack of ha­bit that usually arou­ses with au­da­city, no­velty and the im­mi­nent po­si­tion of being per­cei­ved as an alien to on­going so­cial mo­dels. This hap­pe­ned when the youngs­ters of yes­ter­year phi­lo­sop­hi­zed, un­til well in­to the last de­ca­des of the 20th cen­tury, on the su­pre­macy of The Beatles, The Ro­lling Sto­ne, Led Zep­pe­lin and Deep Pur­ple. The pro­cess of of­fi­cial as­si­mi­la­tion of the­se En­glish-sin­ging bands was ne­ver short of con­tro­versy. The pro­cess ca­rried on un­til the bands gar­ne­red the sup­port, by con­vin­ced ac­cep­tan­ce, of tho­se who we­re tas­ked with com­prehen­ding them in Cu­ba: the me­dia, music songw­ri­ters and per­for­mers, fi­ne ar­tists, film­ma­kers, mo­vie­goers, wri­ters, poets and even the aut­ho­ri­ties, who com­ple­men­ted the pre­fe­ren­ces of le­gions of is­land fans.

DO THEY FEEL GOOD AMONG CU­BANS?

In ad­di­tion to the beha­vior of the Bri­tish tra­vel mar­ket, with sus­tai­ned sta­tis­ti­cal growth –al­most twi­ce as much- from 2014 to 2017, the lo­yalty of the­se vi­si­tors to se­ve­ral ho­tel fa­ci­li­ties on the lar­gest Ca­rib­bean is­land stands out. Se­ve­ral UK tourism com­pa­nies ope­ra­te with Cu­ba, such as the As­so­cia­tion of Bri­tish Tra­vel Agents (ABTA), Tho­mas Cook and Bri­tish Air­ways, thus pro­vi­ding va­lua­ble trai­ning ac­tions for per­son­nel wor­king in the Cu­ban tourism sec­tor.

For every Brit who vi­sits this big is­land, we can­not be de­nied the chan­ce to ut­ter an ex­pres­sion si­mi­lar to that McCart­ney's du­ring his unex­pec­ted presence he­re (Thank you. All good!) or just what Mick Jag­ger cried out du­ring the Ro­lling Sto­nes con­cert on March 26, 2016, be­fo­re hun­dreds of thou­sands of ent­hu­sias­tic fans: ¡Ho­la Ha­ba­na, bue­nas no­ches mi gen­te de Cu­ba! (He­llo Ha­va­na. Good eve­ning my peo­ple from Cu­ba).

pTan res­pe­ta­bles han si­do los ba­res cu­ba­nos que el mis­mí­si­mo Graham Gree­ne lle­gó a de­cir que el Flo­ri­di­ta «es el má­xi­mo bar en la tie­rra». Cu­ban bars got such a good na­me for them­sel­ves that Graham Gree­ne him­self (1904-1991) even said that the Flo­ri­di­ta “is the fi­nest bar on earth.”

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