After breakfast, and scoring some Benadryl from another on our trip, we board our bus to literally go around the corner to the Casa de las Américas House, which was founded by the government in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution, to investigate, support, reward and publish the works of writers, musicians, theater practitioners, visual artists and other artisans from throughout Cuba.
The museum's exhibits are mostly of the period of the revolutionary war of the 1950s and Cuba's post-1959 history. Behind the museum is the Granma Memorial, a large glass enclosure that houses the Granma, the yacht that took Che Guevara, Fidel and Raúl Castro and dozens more revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba for the revolution. There is also a SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile like the one that shot down a US spy plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and various vehicles and tanks used during the revolution.
Of great amusement is a caricature of anti-revolutionists that includes Ronald Reagan and George Bush (the senior)!
Lunch today is at La Florida. A frequent hangout of papa Hemingway, it antecedent dates back to 1817 when it was known as "La Pina de Plata" (The Silver Pineapple). In the 1940s, it's then owner is credited for inventing the frozen daiquiri. Besides a bar, La Florida serves delicious sautéed shrimp, which we greedily devour. Yummy!
The cemetery is a virtual sea of endless tombs and one in particular is mesmerizing to me . . . "La Milagrosa," which dates back to the early 20th century. The tomb belongs to Amelia Goyri, known as "La Milagrosa," who died in childbirth at the age of 23. Her small tomb is always covered with fresh flowers and taken care with love and respect by man people. According to the legend, the baby did not survive either and both — mother and son — were buried in the tomb, which the widower, José Vincent Adot y Rabell visited daily. For many years, Adot faithfully visited the tomb each day believing that Amelia was asleep, so he used to wake her up with three knocks on the tomb as a excreted signal of complicity between the two. The day the remains were to be exhumed, witnesses saw that the bodies were intact and , in a symbol of maternal love that Amelia was holding her son in her arms, so the tomb was resealed and has remained like that since. The legend inspired Cuban sculptor José Villa Saavedra to make the beautiful life-size Carrara marble statue that represents a young woman looking up in a gesture of faith. In the statue's left arm is a baby. As the legend spead throughout Havana, residents turned Amelia's resting place into a shrine where they ask for protection for their children, childbirth without complications, or for couples who aren't able to conceive to be blessed with children. All of the stone shards with hopes, prayers and thanksgivings have been added to over the many decades.
The insides of some of the crypts are also fascinating. Many are crumbling, yet hold powerful energies of their occupants and loved ones who have visited over time. While walking amongst the memorials and tombs, I found a piece of corrugated cardboard, which my own recently deceased artist husband used as a primary material in some of his last artworks — it was a sign to me that he, too, was with me on my first trip out of the U.S. It was both exhilarating and comforting to experience in this very sacred surrounding.
Unlike the 50s, when my in-laws had gone to the Tropicana, many of the women wore bodysuits or pantyhose under their skimpy and flamboyant costumes — too bad for those of us up close as it was a distraction for me. Though to be fair, some of the performers didn't, so the experience seemed more authentic.
Two negatives of the evening were not being able to order a wonderful fruity rum cocktail — one glass of wine or beer was served — and sitting across the narrow community table from us were two college students who had escaped their own tour . . . and arrived drunk and proceeded to be obnoxious. They were eventually escorted out during the show after one threw up. Pretty funny . . .