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Why Havana Had to Die


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Why Havana Had to Die

 

Theodore Dalrymple Summer 2002

 

Decay, when not carried to excess, has its architectural charms, and ruins are romantic: so romantic, indeed, that eighteenth-century English gentlemen built them in their gardens, as pleasantly melancholic reminders of the transience of earthly existence. But Fidel Castro is no eighteenth-century English gentleman, and Havana is not his private estate, for use as a personalmemento mori. The ruins of Havana that he has brought into being are, in fact, the habitation of over 1 million people, whose collective will, these ruins attest, is not equal in power to the will of one man. “Comandante en jefe,” says one of the political billboards that have replaced all commercial advertisements, “you give the orders.” The place of everyone else, needless to say, is to obey.

 

Havana has changed a little since I was last there, a dozen years ago. The vast Soviet subsidy has vanished; the economy now depends on European tourism. The influx of tourists, most of them in search of a cheap holiday in the tropics and cheerfully oblivious to Cuba’s politics, has necessitated a slight degree of flexibility. Small private family restaurants, called paladares(paladar is Spanish for palate), with no more than 12 seats, are now tolerated, though the hiring of non-family labor, deemed exploitative by definition, is still not permitted. Scissors-32x32.png

http://www.city-journal.org/html/12_3_urbanities-why_havana.html

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