I know that the Union Jack has a kind of iconic fashion status like the stars and stripes of the US, and the well merchandised Cuban flag along with Che, however the recent appearance of fashion items boasting the Union Jack seems to be a craze here in Cuba. I count at least 10 or 12 a day and if I head up town I see more. When I saw a man wearing a huge Union Jack T shirt and matching espadrilles, I had to go and ask him, what is this obsession in Cuba with the British flag? He said that he just liked it … the colours and the style. His wife was laughing, saying he wants to be English but without any great conviction. I am not sure what is going on but I am sure it is not a sudden and bizarre affection for my country, maybe random knock-off Olympic and Jubilee merchandise is pouring in and the Cubans with their love for bright bold colours and labels are snapping them up. The following day I bumped into a whole family decked out in Union Jack attire, all with matching espadrilles and T-shirts, father, mother and son in pushchair. I wish I’d had my camera with me!
One of the first things you notice about Cuba is the lack of traffic, but it seems that for various reasons to do with importation and good old-fashioned supply and demand, cars are now pouring into Cuba. I am not sure who is importing them and re-selling them but things are changing fast. These last few weeks I have actually been a little irritated by the traffic, which has never happened to me here. Even when people are driving as though they are the only person on the road, you always have plenty of space to get round them, as they usually are the only other car on the road. Now, they are still driving as though they are the only cars on the road, but they are NOT.
Like all transitions, I fear that there will be a rise in accidents, as people are now buying new cars, that can go faster, but they have not learnt the etiquette and safety measures of how to drive in a busier, faster world. In fact yesterday I saw 2 bad accidents on the Malecon, one of them including a bicycle. It made me reassess where I was going to go cycling on my new shiny bike bought at Marina Hemingway the other day. The lack of road markings, pot holes in the road and a general inability to drive in lots of traffic are not helping the situation. After 8 years of driving in Guatemala I am ready for anything and at least nobody is going to pull a gun on me. Or at least not yet!
What I want to know is who are all these people buying cars and where did they get their money? Cars are changing hands at inflated prices. Are they all bureaucrats cashing in on preferential deals while they still can? Are they ordinary people with money wired from Miami or Canada or wherever? I don’t know, but in the last couple of months the cars seem to have doubled on the roads and it does not appear that these cars are being driven by the most polite of Cubans. I was commenting the other day that at least Cubans have to pass their driving tests, unlike in Guatemala where corruption is the usual way to acquire your driving licence. I wouldn’t be so sure of that commented a wise Cuban friend with a knowing smile ……..
After having the UNESCO visit, hosting Cilect (meeting of international film school directors) and various Hollywood types turning up sniffing around Cuba and the film school we went straight into The Havana film festival which is now coming to an end and I shall be writing about it all soon …. as usual I never get to see any films as I have so many receptions and parties to attend with Rafa and juggling the family and all this has not been easy. The children missed a day of school, Paulo got into trouble for forgetting to do his homework, I missed a parents meeting. Never mind, only one week of school left and the Festival finishes tomorrow …..phew. And Paulo came home with a school report that rocked as did Nico a couple of weeks earlier so all is well in their little trilingual world!
Tonight I am off to meet some British directors who made a road movie in Cuba. I have not seen the film so I am hoping that they give me a copy and I can at least say I have managed to see one film!