Stories of Havana told in a Classic Car

Everyday living and Lies in the New Cuba

Go over (depth) of “Havana Taxi. Existence and Lies in the New Cuba’ (2022), by Ståle Wig / Photograph: By using booksfromnorway.com

By Ricardo Acostarana (El Estornudo)

HAVANA Times – The Norwegian was the 1st one to go out and seem for wood in La Cazuela, in the center of Canasi, Mayabeque province. We advised him: “Take the machete, Ståle”. But the white male was already heading up the hill and was again two minutes afterwards with the driest and fattest trunk on the full mountain around 1 of his shoulders. It was Ståle’s notion to place a pig leg on it that day. Nearly 8 several hours of roasting on the wood and a downpour, guava and banana leaves to decorate the meat.

That viking, almost two meters tall, with a PhD on his again that his close friends from Vedado had no concept about, would dress in us out with all of his questions. Regardless of comprehending cubaneo pretty perfectly, the Norwegian would lift his finger each individual time a single of us threw out some normal jargon, an indecent remark from the barracks, our corner-of-the-block hieroglyphics.

He would sign up for us into almost everywhere: the Rolling Stones live performance, the 16th Street seaside, the staircase at the Chaplin movie theater, in any useless-defeat bar…  At the stop of the working day, we uncovered from just about every other. Oslo was not our new enemy (a joke he understood quickly due to the fact he understood Les Luthiers), significantly much less simply because of a cultural barrier. We shared the similar Havana horizon for many years when he drove a taxi, a mint eco-friendly Buick Roadmaster, from 1952, marinated in rum,” the final story of an whole country.

On December 17, 2014, Cuba and the US reestablished diplomatic relations. The pursuing 2,397 days, or 324 weeks, or 78 months, were being condensed into Havana Taxi. Life and Lies in the New Cuba: “a literary documentary with 50-something chapters about the betrayal of the hope that came with the Cuban-US thaw,” as the author Ståle Wig states. The guide climaxes with the social rebellion on July 11, 2021 (11-J), and other vital gatherings such as the dying of Fidel, Hurricane Irma, Trump entering the White Property, the San Isidro Movement and November 27, 2020 (27N). 

Havana Taxi… was offered on March 16, 2022 at the Storgata 26 Club in the Norwegian money. Kagge Publishers took the reins of publishing this subversive and overwhelming chronicle. Only anyone like Ståle Wig, who had traveled to the island time and time yet again above eight years, keeping in Vedado, Central Havana and Previous Havana for long periods of time, would have felt like they could translate the most underground of Cuban culture into Norwegian, in just more than 350 internet pages.

In September 2022, the e book was selected by the Norwegian Literature Overseas foundation (NORLA) as a  “emphasis title“ to existing it at literary festivals across the entire world. Literary agency Northern Stories is doing work on the English translation. “Presenting it in Havana 1 working day will be the “unpublished” chapter of Havana Taxi…,” the Norwegian writer jokes in a WhatsApp get in touch with that disconnects at periods. 

With 34 a long time and a PhD in Social Anthropology from Oslo University on his again, Ståle Wig is that kid US anthropologist and poet Margaret Mead at the time spoke about. The kid that when pushed into deep drinking water and with no other instruction but to come residence, returns an qualified swimmer right after a 12 months or two.

“I had no strategy what I was obtaining myself into at the time,” he explained to me during his past check out to Havana, a month following he introduced the guide in Norway. “South Africa was my desired destination, to investigation worldwide aid, but it did not transpire. Obama and Raul started to whittle, and I landed in Havana three weeks later on.”

Ståle Wig experienced been awarded a college grant for his investigate, and he applied it in the most effective attainable way. “I sat on the edge of my mattress with all of my grant funds in my hand, 12,800 USD,” he tells me from Oslo. He would quickly get an almendron (a typical automobile that is repaired with all sorts of spare sections and a little bit of ingenuity) to inform the authentic tales in a fictitious place from its inside. “I now understand that proudly owning a automobile in Cuba is like remaining the proprietor of a horse. It is madness.”

“The strategy was for the car and me to go to an not known land,” he writes in the chapter entitled “I”, like a breadcrumb in an anthill. 

Ståle Wig’s existence/examine/perform-rifle became tangled in a Gordian knot. Which is how his people – foremost and secondary – ended up to be dragged into a socio-political orgy, of corruption – in some circumstances-, exile and voluntary displacement.

“Four lifestyle cycles ended up about to transform for the reason that of what was happening…,” Ståle Wig writes.

Address of “Havana Taxi. Existence and Lies in the New Cuba’ (2022), by Ståle Wig / Image: By way of booksfromnorway.com

The frost

Linet is now residing in Denmark. She is a happy, married woman with a gorgeous very little female. But that wasn’t generally the circumstance. “Fidel (did not) retain his promises, just like a lot of other men in her lifestyle.” The Comandante was the greatest star in the sky, the Significant Priest of an earthly hell.

In Havana Taxi’s Cuba, Linet, a mulatta lady from Santiago de Cuba, arrives to Havana to make a life. She is a victim of sexual harrassment. She fulfills a Russian man on social media who she then marries, and she goes to the South Siberian forest steppe… a tale that has really a radioactive ending. 

Again in the Cuban money, she ends up in another violent enjoy story. Force from her family members about her political stance on social media forces her to become even far more isolated from the globe. She’d return to Europe years later not without aggravating herself with several organization jobs in a town that appeared to flourish with new financial steps just after the opening was promised. 

Ståle Wig would usually ask us what we believed about Cuba’s new romance with the US? If we always drank cheap rum, the bad kind? If we had any other aspirations in lifestyle, other than sitting down and speaking about artwork and literature late into the evening? Why do we contact the police “fiana”, or why we say “agua” to warn other individuals they’re coming? Why did road sellers on Monte Avenue – in which he would go every single working day for some time as section of his career, and wherever he even helped on a stall-, whisper concerning by themselves that “the foreigner doesn’t seem like a foreigner at all, but like a DeTeI agent”? 

There had been thoughts that experienced no answers, and the Viking would only nod. His buddies appreciated his pragmatic ignorance from the other aspect of the Malecon wall, while Ståle did not like to perform the handsome vacationer who skirts the periphery. He was so devoted to his investigate that he dived into the spaces between this Cuba that we even felt like we did not know at situations.

I think I’m God’s daughter

Catalina is a shining light-weight in nationwide sports activities: the “Chosen One”. The newspaper’s patriotic slogan on her pseudo-militant human body: “Get by”. The middle-aged girl past her key is now an economical inspector at a hotel chain, though her calling is to be a VIP businesswoman in the foul program that has afflicted the island at any time because it was born. Daughter of the Revolution and devoted to the Comandante, Catalina was born in 1959. 

It was her plan for Ståle to grow to be a “botero” (taxi driver) and “buquenque” of the Buick, in the meantime. “Catalina was heading to use the automobile for her have business enterprise: advertising hair.” In the outskirts of the funds, she is the protagonist of a technology that the Castros buried in sand like an armless doll. The very same doll that is nevertheless begging for a feather hat.

Catalina knows how items get the job done: the quantity of income you want to corrupt in fashion, the ideal time to bribe anyone, administrative workings. She thinks she’s residing like a queen many thanks to her son who tells her, from the aged place of Holland, that the long term is looking promising with Cuba’s industry reforms.

***

None of Ståle’s mates in Vedado experienced the (unparalleled) prospect to see the Norwegian in shorts and a T-shirt ask his temporary clients on a Saturday night at 11 PM: “Don’t slam the door when you get out, remember to.” 

“Driving an almendron in Havana was like learning to drive all about yet again,” Ståle Wig writes.

At the helm of his Buick, the Norwegian felt the adrenaline of Havana taxi motorists as they pace and quit abruptly, on his very own journeys together the city’s principal streets – 23rd Avenue, Rampa, Infanta, Galiano. Prostitutes supplying their bodies to him in the fast lane, partiers likely from just one bar to a different, escaping from the law enforcement in a chase… Ståle Wig life his personal city thriller that would have been impossible to film.

Ståle Wig / Photo: Helman Avelle

Kids of the Thaw Course of action

A single night, Norges has a desire: “… the dictatorship experienced fallen. He ran to the airport in Miami and they landed in Havana in a second. The airplane doorway instantly opened and he hurried down the staircase to the observe. There were voices shouting and laughing almost everywhere. The concrete was comprehensive of airplanes. Individuals arrived outside into the sunshine with out suitcases, entirely vacant-handed. Cuban border regulate waved their arms and welcomed them. “It’s so great you arrived back again,” they explained, hugging Norges. “Brothers and sisters, it’s so excellent you came back again!” When Norges woke up, his eyes were filled with tears.”

Norges Rodriguez and Taylor Escalona are young children of the thaw method. The pair also dreamed about this country, but slowly but surely grew to become like quite a few other generations of Cubans – in conditions of conversation and maintaining up with the news -, who, just like them, fled for hardly ever, which is distinct to never going back again and permanently.

Is this “sliding into exile, total of question and self-deception”? “Is leaving dropping ground to the regime”? Yaima Pardo, a filmmaker, activist and close friend of each the other characters, would make up the digital trinity of Havana,Taxi…

The dinosaur of a Point out refused to extend Online entry on the island, in spite of the platonic “opening up to the entire world.” Norges, Taylor and Yaima obtained pricked by this spinning wheel, but World wide web access in Cuba now is also a consequence of their requires.

The a few of them fashioned part of more state-of-the-art civil culture in Cuba for the duration of these 2,397 days. The dream of producing a “Human Rights Property in Cuba” together hasn’t been solid apart it is just been frozen like a huge seed in the Svalbard World wide Seed Vault. 

Repression was another shadow that adopted them: on the street at their locations of get the job done and study at the Summit of the Americas in 2015, in Panama, in which they were invited in the voice of a Point out Security agent telling them they could be locked up for 20 decades for “Financing Terrorism.” 

Only Yaima Pardo and Norges Rodriguez carry on creating as unbiased journalists from the US, as very well as their activism operate. Taylor Escalona operates in a chain of shops and has a portion-time task at a luxurious evening club in Las Vegas.

“Norges’ desire was also mine to some extent, as we had been one remaining,” Taylor recollects from Las Vegas. “I guess this aspiration started to adjust in him far more than it did in me. I still want to go back again, but a lot less than I did right before. I constantly get a heat welcome when I go again to Cuba. I constantly shell out my journey from the rental area to Terminal 3 [at Havana airport], when I go again, crying, with a knot in my throat that starts to disappear as before long as I consider my very first phase inside the American Airlines airplane. My aspiration was much more for the group ahead of now it’s a bit a lot more egocentric. Cuba was my main desire ahead of. I still aspiration of it, but my household and closest circle are my main priority appropriate now. I’m saying all this, but I just have to have a glimmer of hope for the island to become my precedence once again. Cuba is often existing, it is never in the past. We have a poisonous marriage, the most poisonous partnership of my lifestyle.”

Bonus Keep track of: The Norwegian’s 11-J

“I was in Oslo and noticed the same shots. It was night below. I apologized to my pals, who had invited me to evening meal, and I went residence down the dim streets. It was in the course of the summer holiday, the town was tranquil. I took out my cellphone and commenced to movie, like I’d noticed the Cubans do. It was an absurd thing to do, for the reason that there was not everyone all-around, just the tram in the distance, some vehicles and pedestrians at night. But I recorded the streets, and then I listened to my voice shout, with fairly a good deal of simplicity: Patria y Vida!“, writes Ståle Wig in Havana Taxi… ”I emptied my lungs. “Patria y Vida in Norway’s streets!”

[Editor’s Note: The book was originally written in Norwegian. There are translations in Spanish and English in the process of seeking an editorial house to publish them.]

Browse extra from Cuba below on Havana Periods