|December 26, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels
Cerro, Havana, Cuba. We convince Cousin Augusto to take us to an exhibition baseball game at the Estadio Latinoamericano, home of the Industriales, Havana’s home team. Augusto warns us that foreigners aren’t expressly forbidden to come here, but they’re not exactly encouraged either, and that we should avoid talking or drawing attention to ourselves in any way.
This week, thanks to Augusto and Ramón, we have gotten to go several places which are normally off limits to tourists. Every time, we try to make ourselves invisible, but people make us immediately and address us in English. I ask Augusto about this and he says that it’s not our height, or our Levi’s, or our tattoos, and that we don’t even have the uniquely American way of carrying ourselves which many travelers from the U.S. do. “ They can just smell it on you “, he says.
We get through the gate without much trouble, and the cost of a ticket is something like nine cents, which I pay for with some tattered Cuban pesos I’ve gotten on the black market. ( a thing which I’ve never seen anywhere else : there are two systems of currency here – the Cuban peso, which is for natives, and the CUC, which is for visitors. More on that here )
Augusto describes the legions of secret police and sharpshooters who descend on the place when Fidel attends games, and points out the box where he sits, which is right in front of us. A few people watch us sideways, but they are genuinely interested in the game, a languid affair that they follow intently. There are no concession stands, just a few people walking around hawking food that they made at home. An old guy comes by selling coffee out of a battered teapot. ” Cuánto? “, I ask, but he refuses to sell me a cup. ” That’s okay, you don’t want to drink that shit ” says Augusto.
The sun starts to set, and the old concrete glows pink. Lights click on and buzz, and the breeze carries warbling announcements and the occasional flanging crack of a bat. A kid walks around the bleachers and blasts a horn that looks like it was made from an old radiator. There are no billboards, and no one has a cel phone. Everyone is right here, in the moment, and I find that I am content to sit very still and think about absolutely nothing.