Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Havana, Part 2

While reading Henri's letters I was struck by the poetry of his correspondance from Cuba. The following excerpts are from a letter to his uncle, most likely his uncle Sillem in Geneva.

Havana, 1853

Havana, 1854

Havana, December 4, 1852
"At last here I am, in a country which, through its nature, its poetry, its originality, its sky and land, its cities and its locals, its morals and its physics, is willing to reward my journey and pay me back a little for such a long and distant separation from my country. The separation from my family and friends, as well, often puts me in such a deep sense of loneliness that I need something great, beautiful and new, to give me a relief which I rarely encountered during my journey across the United States. Here I am now on this beautiful island of Cuba, and its magnificently picturesque capital."

Henri must have sent a pencil drawing along with his letter, most likely for his cousin, as the following paragraph helps give a sense for the color and vibrancy of Havana.

"Here is the drawing, if you wish to color it and turn it into a painting. Imagine the greenery and the vegetation, paint the forts in warm yellow tones that I have only seen used in the paintings of our Riviera. The city, composed of houses of all colors, blue, red, and especially white, which are well adapted to the Moorish style they all have. Color the ships ivory with white hatches and adorn them with flags of many nations. Paint all the rowboats in different colors, let them sail in all directions, with or against the wind, and load them up with oranges and other fruits. Cover the whole painting with blue skies that only exist in these latitudes, and you will indeed have one of the most beautiful spectacles that nature can offer, one that my clumsy and unskilled hand cannot describe correctly."

Finally he describes a bit of Havana nightlife.

"The Alameda, which is the most beautiful promenade in Havana, is busy every night with many volantes, mostly occupied by ladies who, I have to tell you, never go on foot, most of the time, they ride by three, the linda mina, which means the prettiest, sitting in the middle, but since they are usually all good looking, they must often be embarrassed to figure out who the most beautiful among them is."

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