Havana then and now


HAVANA – It took less than an hour to get here from Miami, but the flight catapulted me 58 years back. In fact, I felt a tie to something even deeper in the mists of time.

I spent a day here when I was 14. My mother,  aunt, and I, who were visiting Miami Beach, flew over on Pan Am – $60 roundtrip each – to visit an Andover schoolmate whose father worked for United Fruit.

We savored the sights – including two glistening new hotels, the Capitol, the gorgeous Malecon esplanade along the water – and a fabulous arroz con pollo lunch. It was Dec. 30, 1958, hours before dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country. Jan. 1 would mark the triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution.

I always wanted to return. Isabella Zanobini, my college freshman granddaughter, also wanted to go, so we booked a three-day tour with an organization called InsightCuba.

Revisiting these sights (as well as exploring many others) – and marveling at the plethora of colorful 1950s American cars whizzing by – enabled me to reimagine myself as a youngster. I thought I saw my father’s 1953 Olds. No spotting of my mother’s 1957 Chevy convertible, though I did see several of its hardtop cousins.

But there was also a more profound experience. Not long ago, I came upon a black-and-white picture of my parents visiting Havana’s Morro Castle fortress in 1939 on their honeymoon. There they are – Lester and Anna – a lifetime of marriage ahead of them.

One day our tour group pulled up to the fortress, and my granddaughter and I gazed out over the same scene they saw. We asked someone to snap our picture. And there it is, in bright color, a terrific companion to the one of my parents taken 77 years earlier.