The Great Grand Prix Boat Race Takes Over Cienfuegos

July 18, 1998 11:30am

Yesterday morning when I went to the Marina, I was stopped by the police and searched again. This is becoming routine as is much of what occurs over the days. The speed boats at the Marina are cause for heightened security.


I've been in Cuba for three weeks now and it seems like three years. What was unusual is now ordinary. It is no longer surprising to go to the bathroom and find only a hole in the ground and no water. I'm accustomed to washing in the steel drum outside Yasmell's house, to people staring at us, alternately asking for the time or a match in order to strike up a conversation and then abruptly leaving when the police arrive.

  I'm at El Servi this morning - a small shop where I can find boxed orange juice and some days (but not today) Cuban coffee. It's one of the few air conditioned buildings and provides some relief from the heat. Today it is very full of people as is the rest of the town.

There seems to be several hundred tourists here now instead of just Chris and me. Thousands of Cubans have come from the countryside for the Grand Prix. Yesterday the streets were full of people drinking the local beer, pouring it into any container they had for three pesos.


  It seems dozens of pigs were roasted and every fifty feet or so is another vendor serving the small greasy sandwiches. Chris and I have had nothing else for the last three days except for some of the cheese bread (pizza).  
  We spent yesterday walking the streets watching the people enjoying the carnival. In the evening we went to Yasmell's house and I visited with the family next door. Beybe had found us in town and had insisted I visit her home again.

Later, we went to the free Disco and enjoyed watching Yasmell dance with his daughter, Adys.

It seems the racing will begin soon. I can see crowds of people walking to the marina and the malecon. I think I'll go to the boat again though I know it means being harassed by customs and the police. I need to get some more money and maybe Chris will be there.

We've decided to return to Grand Cayman on Wednesday, four days from now. It took three trips but we managed to purchase tickets for a flight from Havana. We'll probably leave Cienfuegos Monday or Tuesday but I'm not sure how we'll get there. Havana is five hours away and, so far we're unable to find a rental car.

Chris has decided to leave the boat in Cuba and perhaps take it to the United States to sell later. He's asked if I will help with the crossing and I've agreed. Maybe after we return from Turks & Caicos would be a good time.

1998 John Petrak

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