". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dreaming Cuba and New Orleans

Since returning from Cuba my nightly dreams have all been about Cuban places and landscapes.  However, last night's dreams inserted New Orleans into the surge and flow of Cuban experience imagery.

Which brings to mind that I never went to New Orleans or the French Caribbean (other than the Hotel Oloffson, an oasis, in Port-au-Prince) until after the 1990 - 2003 Cuban experiences, until now. We lived in NO 2004 - 2005, and have returned there repeatedly every year since, but I'd not been there until 2003, during the year of my last trips to Cuba.

The dream New Orleans city blends seamlessly with the dream Habana Vieja in my dreams. The landscapes outside of these cities in Cuba and Louisiana blend as well. Perhaps this is because of many places in the Cuban sugar regions we visited on this trip, including ruins of 17th, 18th and 19th sugar plantations and mills, shut down sugar plantations and mills and sugar plantations from the 19th century, where we were served foods that the slaves created, had hair styles, clothing and dances demonstrated to us by descendants of the slave labor forces, and in the community created slave era museums. We also visited mills that are in continued sugar production currently, that employ the descendants of the slave labor force of the 19th century, particularly in Matanzas* province.

The two places also blend seamlessly due to NO and Louisiana belonging to Spain in the 18th century, and governed from Havana by the Spanish Military General O'Reilly-- see, particularly,

Habana Vieja, plaza des armas; a monument honoring Carlos Manuels Céspedes, 19th C Independista.  Behind the viewer's perspective is the Cabildo.

Csbildo, plaza des arms, Habana Vieja.
Cabildo, Jackson Square, New Orleans.

La plaza des armas in Habana Vieja and Jackson Square in New Orleans (though Jackson Square is a lot smaller, naturally --

Marshal Alejandro, Conde de O'Reilly (1722, Dublin, Ireland – March 23, 1794, Bonete, Spain)
who also built NO's Jackson Square (though it wasn't called that then). These fortresses built by Spain throughout the Spanish Antilles, New Orleans and Latin America, are all built on the same system.  So the one in Matanzas, Cuba looks just like the one in St. Augustine, Florida and the remains of the barracks etc. in New Orleans Jackson Square.

Both BL and I kept having New Orleans flashbacks/ For instance, passing by three guys squatting after work hours by a warehouse situated on the Regla train tracks,* *drinking beer. We both thought for a second we were on the street from NO's Quarter on the way to the Bywater.  El V, however, sneered at both of us, for he sees Havana and Cuba only as themselves, period, and knows them both far more intimately than I, or even Blake.  Nevertheless, Blake and I saw what we saw, and Blake knows NO so very well due to his years as music supervisor for the David Simon HBO series, Treme.

In the meantime BL keeps adding to the Travelers' shared google photo site,
which, if I have it right, is available to anyone with a google and / or gmail account.


Things were a mess weather-wise during a fair amount of our tour.  Here, in Colon, Matanzas, is horse went down in the drenching rain.  Horses remain a major part of transportation, along with oxen, in much of Cuba's rural areas, as riding animals, pulling buggies with passengers, and carts loaded with produce.  Also to herd cattle.
*  Here is one ruin we visited in Matanzas province, where were taken to see the sacred Ceiba tree (alas, it was too dark by the time I got to the ceiba in Colon, Matanzas, for any photo to have come out), their community effort slavery museum, various templos to seven of the orishas, and given a tremendous performance of both rumba and santería drumming and dance.  Then we came back to the primitive, i.e. for the working man, hotel, the only hotel in Matanzas, still, at this time, when the city's just booming!

The (famous) ferry that connects Regla and Havana muncipios.  Can't help it: this reminds me of the New Orleans Canal St. ferry that connects West and East Banks.

New Orleans's Canal Street ferry, connecting to Algiers, on the West Bank. 
** Regla, is the west-central district across the Havana bay.  It's harbor is where the slave ships landed their tragic cargo throughout the later 18th and 19th centuries.  It's the birth place of the rumba and where the Abaqua society -- the Leopard secret society from the Five Rivers area of Nigeria and Cameroon -- took control of the docks.

Historical Museum of Guanabacoa
Regla beats out even Guanabocoa, situated in eastern Havana, the part of Havana known for brujeria, for the distinction of being the poorest and blackest of Havana's 15 municipios.

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