From Inside Cuba

Distributed by The Cuba Free Press Project

July 19, 1997



He who doesn't know La Bodeguita, doesn't really know Havana, that's what someone told me once, a kind of "happy few", by now extinguished in the island.

Because La Bodeguita del Medio has turned, over time, into a must see place, more than national, international.

La Bodeguita del Medio lifts its doors every single day and it is assaulted by a mob of tourists who travel the world to spend their vacations, and even their sorrows, somewhere else.

This establishment started its legend some decades ago, when it served as a place of solace to a group of actists, writers, and even clerks from an adjoining print shop, who would flock there to satisfy their hunger and thirst for a homestyle diner. It was there that Hemingway would spend his days in Cuba, drinking the mojitos at the Bodeguita, and the Daiquiris at the Floridita. Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, and other Hollywood notables also went there.

I don't remember who was the first famous client who signed the wall--- where now there's not even a spot left-- (something) which started as an excentricity, but time turned into a routine.

La Bodeguita del Medio, in the cobblestone street, an object of so many anecdotes of those memorable times, and others not so memorable, turned into a tourist attraction. A museum for a mixed drink and congri with pork, with the smell of imported perfume from all four corners of the world. In the tiny space between the high counter and the armoire full of ancient pictures, there are perhaps three of four dozen people from all over the world.

You can hear people speaking English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Danish, and even some other languages in this global room, since the warmth of the drink can loosen many tongues, and when they are not enough, you turn to virtual language.

Cubans are surely to be found behind the counter, because they are the ones servicing the clientele. Today, La Bodeguita charges in dollars, like in all the other places which have become tourist's attractions. They are off limits to Cubans, who don' t have greenbacks, and, as in many of other attractions-- for example hotels, beaches, etc.-- not even there. They are not allowed. The sole reason: They are Cubans and live in submission.

By Lucas Garve (APIC)


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