News and Facts about Cuba

When I got to Varadero

When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
Posted on April 6, 2015

Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 30 March 2015 — Despite the fact
that on the three occasions I ever visited Varadero my experiences were
not particularly pleasant, that beach – which today for the majority of
Cubans is almost as inaccessible as Waikiki – occupies a special place
in my nostalgia.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the
Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who
were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from
, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike
Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top
favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the
break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago,
Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure
Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we
wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally
bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock.

But the rained on our parade. We ended up in a station
that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in
Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry
was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because
the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to
turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name
at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper,
Granma.

By throwing us in the pokey, they almost did us a favor, because outside
it was as cold as Kamchatka. The bad part was when the officers started
to talk about cutting our hair, and we heard one say, “These guys are
gonna get scalped.” Luckily these were no more than idle threats. They
let us go at the Cárdenas terminal with the warning, “Get the fuck out
here right now, Punks.”

My second visit to Varadero was in the summer of 1979. I went with my
wife. We arrived unexpectedly, with a few clothes in a backpack. At that
time, Varadero was not only for foreign tourists. Even so, we had to
spend the night between the “Park of the Thousand Box Offices” and the
sands of the beach. When the police threw us out of the park, we went to
the shore. We drank Coronilla brandy, made love among the casuarina
trees, and later, despite the mosquitoes, fell asleep in the sand. We
were awakened by the border patrol, with dogs and bayonets, who told us
that we could not spend the night on the coast. We then returned to the
park, sans police. At dawn we returned to the beach and, when the sun
was out, got into the water to wake ourselves up.

We were only able to obtain lodging (very reasonably priced) in a little
wooden “,” the Miramar. As old and decrepit as it was, I suppose it
no longer exists.

We had a great time: all day on the beach, and at night we would go
dancing to the beat of The Bee Gees at the La Patana club. The only
downside was the couple in the room next door. When they made love, they
would screech as if being murdered. Their screams penetrated the wooden
walls, as if inviting one to emulate them – or to switch partners,
because with all that racket, it was as if we were all entangled
together in the same bed. When we finally caught sight of them one
morning at the hotel entrance, these sexual athletes turned out to be a
little chubby peroxide blonde, and a skinny guy with a mustache,
nearsighted glasses and the look of an official from the Central
Planning Council.

The third and last time that I was in Varadero was in 1986, during an
excursion on a “day for outstanding employees” that my wife won at the
State company where she worked. We went with the oldest of our sons, who
had not yet turned three years old. All went well, until we ran out of
drinking water and, while searching for a faucet where we could fill
several bottles, we lost the boy’s left shoe. This was a real tragedy
because that pair of Chinese Gold Cup shoes had cost us a fortune at the
Yumurí store.

Since that time, I have not returned to Varadero – a place at first
reserved for foreign tourists and the privileged elite, and now on the
way to becoming a global resort, without an identity, depersonalized,
only for the rich. Or rather, what we Cubans in our indigence understand
to be “rich.” I don’t want to feel discriminated against, humiliated, or
to be expelled in a worse way than I was back in 1970 – keeping in mind
that, in the logic of the security personnel who watch me, a
would be much more troublesome than a kid disguised as a hippie.

Varadero, in my mind, continues to be associated, in a certain way and
in spite of everything, with happiness. I don’t want to ruin that image.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the
Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who
were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from
school, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike
Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top
favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the
break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago,
Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure
Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we
wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally
bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock. .

But the police rained on our parade. We ended up in a police station
that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in
Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry
expression was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because
the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to
turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name
at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper,
Granma.

By throwing us in the pokey, they almost did us a favor, because outside
it was as cold as Kamchatka. The bad part was when the officers started
to talk about cutting our hair, and we heard one say, “These guys are
going all the way.” Luckily these were no more than idle threats. They
let us go at the Cárdenas terminal with the warning, “Get the fuck out
here right now, Punks.”

My second visit to Varadero was in the summer of 1979. I went with my
wife. We arrived unexpectedly, with a few clothes in a backpack. At that
time, Varadero was not only for foreign tourists. Even so, we had to
spend the night between the “Park of the Thousand Box Offices” and the
sands of the beach. When the police threw us out of the park, we went to
the shore. We drank Coronilla brandy, made love among the casuarina
trees, and later, despite the mosquitoes, fell asleep in the sand. We
were awakened by the border patrol, with dogs and bayonets, who told us
that we could not spend the night on the coast. We then returned to the
park, sans police. At dawn we returned to the beach and, when the sun
was out, got into the water to wake ourselves up.

We were only able to obtain lodging (very reasonably priced) in a little
wooden “hotel,” the Miramar. As old and decrepit as it was, I suppose it
no longer exists.

We had a great time: all day on the beach, and at night we would go
dancing to the beat of The Bee Gees at the La Patana club. The only
downside was the couple in the room next door. When they made love, they
would screech as if being murdered. Their screams penetrated the wooden
walls, as if inviting one to emulate them – or to switch partners,
because with all that racket, it was as if we were all entangled
together in the same bed. When we finally caught sight of them one
morning at the hotel entrance, these sexual athletes turned out to be a
little chubby peroxide blonde, and a skinny guy with a mustache,
nearsighted glasses and the look of an official from the Central
Planning Council.

The third and last time that I was in Varadero was in 1986, during an
excursion on a “day for outstanding employees” that my wife won at the
State company where she worked. We went with the oldest of our sons, who
had not yet turned three years old. All went well, until we ran out of
drinking water and, while searching for a faucet where we could fill
several bottles, we lost the boy’s left shoe. This was a real tragedy
because that pair of Chinese Gold Cup shoes had cost us a fortune at the
Yumurí store.

Since that time, I have not returned to Varadero – a place at first
reserved for foreign tourists and the privileged elite, and now on the
way to becoming a global resort, without an identity, depersonalized,
only for the rich. Or rather, what we Cubans in our indigence understand
to be “rich.” I don’t want to feel discriminated against, humiliated, or
to be expelled in a worse way than I was back in 1970 – keeping in mind
that, in the logic of the security personnel who watch me, a dissident
would be much more troublesome than a kid disguised as a hippie.

Varadero, in my mind, continues to be associated, in a certain way and
in spite of everything, with happiness. I don’t want to ruin that image.

Author’s Email Address:

Translator’s Notes:
*The title of this piece is taken from a line in the song, Conocí la
paz, sung by legendary Cuban singer, Beny Moré. Varadero is a beach
resort town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez |
Translating Cuba –
http://translatingcuba.com/when-i-got-to-varadero-cubanet-luis-cino-alvarez/

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