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De Un Pajaro las dos Alas: Travel Notes of a Queer Puerto Rican in Havana
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GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 8.1-2 (2002) 7-33

Fireflies. By the shadow of the National Theater, under the loving gaze of El Che, in front of an ivory tower as tall as the horizon. Galloping, heroic, traversing the eye with sharp quills that flow from a majestic, translucent parchment. That will be Josué, fearful leader of failed rebellions on Línea, near the Almendares River. Lighted by the incandescent bulbs of the Yara Theater, across the street from Coppelia, even if the recent construction has left you without customers for strawberry -- much less chocolate -- melting in these too-warm tropics. You foresee the fall of a great wall of noise, of the son de la vega that does not wander down your streets, Old Havana, of walls consumed by termites that no poison will kill. You've always liked frozen treats, even if they lacked milk, but nobody believes you.

What if a car wandered down Calle Veintitrés and careened into the sea, guided by a lighthouse, an unmarked taxi chauffeured by a certain chemical engineer who had abandoned his profession, who told stories about the virtue of American dollars to anyone who had the patience to listen? The car could become a submarine, or a boat, or something else -- a magical 1950s contraption redesigned for flight. But it's just a fantasy that reminds you of Abraham, your other friend, who is also an engineer, but mechanical.

Truth is, the Cubana de Aviación plane arrives from Santo Domingo -- your circuitous route to avoid the embargo -- and the suitcase takes ages to appear, lest you were bringing along a mortal plague. You've been traveling for nearly a day in this roundabout way and are exhausted, although the adrenaline and excitement keep you going. And all of your companions on this pilgrimage leave, and the X-rays and dogs with drug-sniffing powers forgive you and let you depart shortly past midnight from José Martí Three International Airport, so beautiful with its spanking-new, Spanish-paid red-and-white metal structures and walls. But then, traveling down the road, two very young-looking guajiro officers with state-issued guns stop your taxi for speeding; the driver insults them, and, while you curse under your breath, the adolescents finally tire, leaving you free to continue your ordeal. You are the two wings of a dove--de un pájaro las dos alas--but you cannot fly; the celestial clockwork does not allow it.

On another day a street full of columns in Center Havana rises to your right, and Abraham warns you about the possibilities of crime. You immediately look around, and the first person you see seems menacing; fear and paranoia assail you. Vertical wing sends Josué off, and you follow the first down a street pockmarked with holes that looks more like Beirut than Nuestra América; my America of José Martí's dreams slides down a path that you didn't realize existed in these tropics. Abraham shows you the way, and when you arrive you have to go up hundreds of steps without light, wander through the darkness of a wolf's mouth to reach the small apartment where the black-and-white television proclaims the wonders of the revolution right after the Brazilian soap opera and the Canadian cartoon show -- an inter-American celebration! You greet his family and burst into sweat, while they bring you a glass of water that might not have been boiled.

"Do you want to drink tea in my house?" Josué asks after the performance of La zapatera prodigiosa, and it makes you laugh; it's just like the movie! It's the centennial of Federico García Lorca's birth, and this afternoon you cried when you ate strawberry ice cream on Presidente, several blocks from Casa de las Américas. Kitsch attracts you, my love, and go figure, to arrive in such a dignified and pearly-faced city after so many years, where he who does not carry the blood of the Congo has that of the Carabalí, even when there are so many redheads and blondes and even Chinese. You...



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