National Geographic : 2012 Nov
• Bad idea, I said. Someone will notice the foreigner and wreck the plan. "No, I figured it out," Eduardo said. "You won't get out of the car. I'll drive by, slowly, not so slow that we attract attention. I'll tell you when to look. Be discreet." He had borrowed a friend's máquina, which means "machine" but is also what Cubans call the old American cars that are ubiquitous in the Havana souvenir postcards. is one was a 1956 Plymouth of a lurid color that I teased him about, but I pulled the passenger door shut gently, the way Cubans always remind you to, out of respect for their máquinas' advanced age. Now we were driving along the coast, some dis- tance from Havana, into the coastal town where Eduardo and nine other men had paid a guy, in secret, to build a boat sturdy enough to motor them all out of Cuba at once. " ere," Eduardo said, and slowed the Plym- outh. Between two peeling-paint buildings, on the inland side of the street, a narrow alley ended in a windowless structure the size of a one-car garage. "We'll have to carry it out and wheel it up the alley," he said. " en it's a whole block along this main street, toward that gravel that leads into the water. We'll wait until a er midnight. But navy helicopters patrol o shore." He peered into his rearview mirror at the empty street behind him, concentrating, so I shut up. Eduardo is 35, a light-skinned Cuban with short brown hair and a wrestler's build, and in the months since we rst met last winter---he's a former construction worker but that day was driving a borrowed Korean sedan and trying to earn money as an o -the-books cabdriver---we had taken to yelling good-naturedly and inter- rupting each other as we drove around La Ha- bana Province, arguing about the New Changing Cuba. He said there was no such thing. I said people insisted there was. I invoked the many reports I was reading, with names like "Change in Post-Fidel Cuba" and "Cuba's New Resolve." Eduardo would gaze heavenward in exaspera- tion. I invoked the much vaunted new rules opening up the controlled economy of socialist Cuba---the laws allowing people to buy and sell houses and cars openly, obtain bank loans, and work legally for themselves in a variety of small businesses rather than being obliged to work for the state. But no. More eye rolling. "All that is for the bene t of these guys," Eduardo said to me once, and tapped his own shoulder, the discreet Cuban signal for a person with military hardware and inner-circle political pull. What about Fidel Castro having permanently le the presidency four years ago, formally yield- ing the o ce of commander in chief to his more exible and pragmatic younger brother, Raúl? "Viva Cuba Libre," Eduardo muttered, mim- icking a revolutionary exhortation we'd seen emblazoned high on an outdoor wall. Long live free Cuba. "Free from both of them," he said. " at's when there might be real change." If there is in fact a Cuba under serious trans- formation---and you can nd Cubans all over the country engaging now in their own versions By Cynthia Gorney Photographs by Paolo Pellegrin want to show you where we're hiding it," Eduardo said. I"