Historical Fiction American Latinx

I arrived hot and sweaty to the cocktail bar located on a corner of the famous Bishop Street in Old Havana, Cuba. I teleported to a surreal past just when I crossed the threshold of the door: rancid fashioned velvety curtains, baroque columns crudely repainted to conceal time deterioration and lack of funds for its restoration. These topped with a color coat so ordinary that it almost violated the eyes with their failed attempt to resemble a true gold leaf. The stale smell of more than two centuries ago made me think of luxuries before communism, years that brought thinkers and artists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Tennessee Williams. Not only that, but it had also attracted women of extraordinary beauty and performing talent like Ava Gardner and Marlene Dietrich.

Despite all the celebrities that visited the place it was the great American writer Ernest Hemingway who turned it into a popular spot. He frequented the tavern during his life on the Caribbean island with his fourth wife Mary. “My daiquiri at El Floridita” was his historical phrase that still motivates foreigners to have a drink where the journalist passed his last years, before committing suicide at his Idaho home. The same brave man, who survived three wars and won as many literature awards as possible including the Nobel Prize in 1954, drastically contradicted the heroic and reckless personality of his characters by ending his life with a gunshot.

But Hemingway has not completely left the bar where alcohol disinhibits the tourists, and native voluptuous blondes and brunettes enter to sing and get angry if they do not gain tips for moving their hips hilariously, even if they emit a squeaky and annoying voices. The American artist turned into a life-size bronze statue seated in the bar counter, where the lucky ones can spend a nice time talking with him about his fanciful novels and stories, or his most realistic and painful war chronicles.

Excited when I saw an empty seat right next to him, I rushed to it, while unfortunately pushing and stepping on multiple people. I stumbled face first onto the seat and duly accommodated myself without being able to take my eyes of the creator of ocean delights and storms, starry nights in complete solitude and mountains with capricious shapes. Including the suffering of soldiers who, despite their bravery, inevitably perished in battlefields in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

It was a privilege to be sitting next to a gentleman by the name of Ernest. I immediately began to question him what the tired Santiago of “The Old Man and the Sea” had dreamed of after his after his failure in the fight against the big fish. I also asked him about a possible second attempt by the fisherman, and his young helper Manolin, to go after another marlin. Suddenly, I was dumbfounded!

“What are you going to drink, ma'am?” - asked a tanned face whose shining grin made me see stars. That captivating smile that caused the sharks from the novel that gave the Pulitzer to Ernest in '53 to come alive, and made my head spin. The sway that I felt in my body misplaced me: I did not know if I was trying to balance myself in Santiago's boat or jumping to fight the crossfires.

Hemingway tapped my shoulder with his cold hard forefinger and brought me back to reality. He recommended I drink a traditional daiquiri, which I shakily ordered from the young bartender. It is an original drink from Santiago -the same name of the protagonist of his most famous novel-, a city located in the south of the island. Its main ingredients are lemon juice, sugar and Cuban rum, preferably white. It is served with a light frosting of sugar or salt in a cocktail glass. Of course, Hemingway also had a daiquiri and we toast their wonderful stories.

The delicious potion refreshed me, possibly in the same way that the beer Jig drank when she waited for the train. Regarding that story called “Hills like White Elephants”, I begged Ernest to tell me the real cause of the trip through Spanish lands of that young woman and the American man. He didn´t answer me, refusing to lose the talent of leaving the end of his writings to the imagination of the readers. We continued the discussion when, in front of me, surprisingly appeared a line of white pearls as the elephants that the enigmatic girl imagined in those mounts bathed by the sunny rays.

“What would you like to order, ma'am?” - I heard as if the voice came from the other side of the Ebro Valley in Spain and, without emitting a single sound, I pointed out a Congri rice dish on the menu. Mister Hemingway himself disappeared before me because I traveled from Cuba to Paris, in “A Moveable Feast”, where the Seine delineated those seductive lips. When I received the traditional gastronomy dish, I came back to reality before the astonished gaze of my talkative writer, but at the same time with the complicity of understanding the minds that flee seduced by fantasy.

Congri rice is a dish made with white rice, small grain black beans, onion, garlic and pepper. The mixture produces a dough with a smooth consistency and brown color, with a pleasant smell that invites to eat it. The portion was generous, so my admired Ernest and I decided to share the meal. As we tested it, we kept talking about another of his favorite Havana restaurants: La Terraza de Cojímar. He narrated me wistfully that he spent hot long afternoons talking with fishermen while eating succulent seafood, which inspired him to write about the old man's fight against a powerful marlin.

I asked for a second daiquiri and swallowed it quickly because I could not bear to be there one more second. I could no longer control the excitement of talking to Hemingway, and on the other hand, having in front that attractive young man. My thoughts and my emotions were confused and I had to get out before collapsing in ecstasy. I paid and ran away from the tavern.

That strenuous heat and the dizziness of happiness made me walk on the sea and hear the bells that rang with glee. I did not know if the privileged dialogue with one of the greatest American writers had altered my senses, or the ravages of my daiquiris caused it, or maybe the exotic Congri, or it was just the warm smile of the bartender with tanned skin. 

June 27, 2021 03:37

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K. Antonio
19:52 Jul 06, 2021

I found this super fun to read and I loved the historical elements in this piece, the extensive metaphors and prose, really cool! I honestly read this though because I'm a die hard daiquiri fan xD


23:52 Jul 06, 2021

K. Antonio Thank you very much for your comment!


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