I am living in eighteenth century Havana! All I seem to do is pour over street maps of the old city and track down houses and families in really arcane sources. Anyone interested in Cuban genealogy (yes there are actually multiple websites dedicated to this subject) knows about Historia de Familias Cubanas and its 9 volumes of genealogies but reading it can drive you mad. Then there is a whole book about the sugar aristocracy that seems to go forwards, backwards and sideways. Not to mention that everyone has the same last names in seemingly random combinations! All that to get a few sentences about some families….
But there is a romance about the place which comes through when you read about the history of the city and its inhabitants. The feelings are still there. I remember, many years ago, visiting Havana when Cuban exiles were first allowed back. On my last night there, I stood on my hotel balcony and stared out at the ocean — completely enveloped in darkness with just the crashing of the waves. It was so easy to imagine the old Spanish galleons sailing into Havana and how that same darkness had greeted them when there was no city, just a few little bohios clinging to the harbour. It would be wonderful to recreate that sense through the book — to let people really imagine it.
* Short Story by Alejo Carpentier