08/15/13 - Havana Times - Are the Spanish Returning to Cuba?
Spanish actor Willy Toledo says that, in Havana, he has found "one of the
most beautiful cities in the world and by far the safest I have known."
(Photo: Raquel Perez)
HAVANA TIMES - "Every time I'd defend the Cuban revolution, people would
retort: if you like it so much, why don't you go live in Cuba?" Spanish
actor Willy Toledo tells me, adding: "now that I've actually moved to Cuba,
they're going crazy, because there's nothing they can say to me anymore."
Though a number of Spanish newspapers affirm he lives in a mansion, Toledo
in fact lives among Cubans in a working class neighborhood, in a modest
rented apartment that could use some more furniture and a new coat of
"I don't need anything else. I have my bed, my kitchen, my bathroom and my
books, and I'm getting along just fine with that. I don't tend to miss
material things. I do miss people, and my city. I was born and have lived
in Madrid my whole life and I am much attached to it, even though it's
become something of uninhabitable city."
The Spanish right-wingers accuses Toledo of having many privileges denied
Cubans, but the truth of the matter is that, in his own country, he also
lived better than most, having been born to a wealthy family and earned a
lot of money as an actor. "Of course, no one questioned that at the time,"
he says to me, smiling.
He acknowledges that, in Cuba, having money can open certain doors and
afford access to certain luxuries, but not all of them. He again laughs
when he says: "You can spend days looking for a frying pan, and you still
won't find it, no matter how many euros you've got."
He feels better in this Cuban reality than that of the tourist. "I enjoy
experiencing Havana one day after the other, going to the movies, the
theatre, to concerts, to dinners at friends' houses. I have more time to
read now. I didn't have the time in Madrid, and I'm reading like mad now."
I remind him that his native city is a hectic European capital and ask him
how he is faring in Cuba's peace and quiet. He replies that, today, his
nights out consist in buying the occasional bottle of rum and "going over
to a friend's or the Malecon seawall to bend an elbow."
He adds that, "there's plenty of life in Havana, there are things to do
every day. I do miss having an entertainment guide, like they've got in
Madrid (...) but I always find out what's going on anyways. In fact, I don't
have the time to go to all the places I want to."
By the looks of it, Toledo is not having a hard time adjusting. In fact,
"it's fairly easy. I've travelled across Latin America (...) and I think
Cubans are a lot like Spaniards, in the way they speak, their sense of
humor and the way they relate to others."
For Willy Toledo, "Cubans are a lot like Spaniards in the way they
speak, their sense of humor and the way they relate to others." (Photo:
For Willy Toledo, "Cubans are a lot like Spaniards in the way they speak,
their sense of humor and the way they relate to others." (Photo: Raquel
He tends to avoid the old town, because they treat him like a tourist
there. However, "I love to go to the kiosk next to my apartment to have a
fruit juice in the morning, and the one across the street, to have an
omelet sandwich, or just sit on the terraces where regular Cubans sit."
He assures me he doesn't even have any qualms about Cuban cuisine. "I like
traditional Cuban food a lot. I've always liked it, not only Cuban food,
but also Caribbean food. What I like the most is the rice there's no
shortage of it here!"
Known for his sympathies towards the Cuban revolution, the actor tells me
he has discovered Havana's charm. "In Havana, I've found one of the most
beautiful cities in the world and by far the safest I have known."
Toledo may be one of the more famous foreign residents, but he is by no
means the only European to have immigrated to Cuba. Another Spaniard,
married to a Cuban, has just moved into my neighborhood, a few blocks from
where I live. They have just bought a small house with the money they put
together from selling a business that barely gave them enough to live on.
Years before, his wife had secured Spanish residency through their
marriage. Ironically, today it is he who is availing himself of their
marriage to be able to reside on the island, where they can live better
with far less money.
A few days ago, I was treated to a lunch of homemade ravioli prepared by an
Italian whose Cuban wife returned to Cuba to wait for the European crisis
to blow over. Seizing on the opportunity afforded by Cuba's reform process,
they plan on opening up a cooperative that will sell fresh pasta in Havana.
Securing Cuban residency, however, is no easy task. The immigrant must be
married to someone with Cuban nationality or be hired by a company based on
the island, and even then, many residents (myself included) have lived in
the country for decades with a temporary permit that must be renewed every
Original Source / Fuente Original: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=97922
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