Translator: Jessica Burton


We experience a lot of emotions these days. I don’t know if by tradition, or by contamination, because although the authorities on my planet don’t want this, it underlies the atmosphere and enters into our hearts.

Yesterday I was running errands in Old Havana, which I consider to be an oasis in our urban desert. What called my attention was to see that, unlike in other years, neither the streets nor the shops were decorated. Christmas trees could be seen while walking past the fancy restaurants and hotels, almost  hidden from the eyes of passersby. As if the city was embarrassed by dressing up. It bothered me, because indeed this was the only part of the capital where we could breathe the Christmas air. Someone told me that was due to a decree that established a ban on these ornaments. I am not sure, but there is something to this, because  it would be precisely the historic center that would show off the beautiful decorations and lights of this season.

I think it is a mistake repeated ad nauseam, to prohibit these expressions of joy, since the population increasingly manages to decorate houses and gardens, despite the lack of resources. This has become a challenge. I, from my blog, join all those souls who keep alive the spirit of Christmas and raise the toast that one day soon, all Cubans can join in an embrace of love and forgiveness.

Merry Christmas!

Translated by ricote

To my granddaughter Isabel

This was the title of an old Cuban radio show. When I was a child, my grandmother was a fervent listener of that same show, and as I was always at her side, I gave in and also listened to it. That’s why I choose this title for today’s post.

In the year 1968 I was a diplomat in Paris, not as a career, but always in a rush, as had already been happening on my planet for some half a century. Out of the blue one day I was invited to the Elysee Palace, to the French National Festival. As is understandable, such a unique opportunity excited me, but also worried me greatly. We Cubans were, in comparison with the rest of the diplomatic corps, a little more down at the heels.

I had then, to go and visit the most elegant shops of the ‘City of Light’ to choose a dress that would be fitting to the occasion. I chose one from Frank and Fils, one of the most elegant of the time. It’s clear I couldn’t buy it, so after choosing it I kept it in mind and with the greatest of discretion I came away from the window and sketched it out, went back to it to make out the details, until finally my sketch was complete. Then came the best bit. Setting of on a safari trip, from shop to shop, to try to track down a material that would bear the most possible resemblance to the original. Then, buy a good pattern and all hands on deck!

The dress, with the help of a Spanish friend who was very good with her hands, looked beautiful on me. I cut it and sewed it and my friend, with a few impeccably invisible stitches, put in the zipper by hand. It looked pretty but, accessories? The most important was the footwear!

I directed myself to a specialist shop, F. Pinet and I bought myself some Italian shoes by Magli Studio of golden, matte leather, that even today I keep in a perfect state. My then husband loved them when he saw them, but when I told him what they’d cost me, he hit the roof. ‘Don’t grumble,’ I defended myself, telling him ‘If I had gone as far as buying the dress in the shop — and I wouldn’t do that — it would have worked out to be twice as expensive.’

My shoes, whose soles gracefully travelled the red carpet of the Elysee, were those that kept me standing comfortably, the 14th of July 1968, when I shook the hand of General De Gaulle, President of France.

Those shoes have accompanied me in the most important social occasions, of my old life and I still keep them in a perfect state of health and believe me, I’ve never decided to get rid of them, because they’re still good for me or perhaps they’d get a friend out of a tight spot. I learned from a young age, that things have souls.

Translated by: Jessica Burton