We were all a bit weary upon our return to Havana from Santa Clara. Our eyes were full, but our stomachs were empty. And a glass of 3-year-old rum never sounded better.
We checked in at the Melia Cohiba Hotel, and agreed to meet back here, downstairs, at 7pm for dinner. I then pulled my suitcase over to the elevators and went up to the 12th floor. When I opened the door, I was greeted to my best room yet in Cuba, much bigger than during my previous stay. I had a view of the ocean to one side and surrounding hotels on the other. It was spectacular.
Somewhat reenergized by this good fortune, I treated myself to a Cristal that was chilled in the fridge alongside two Cuban colas and 3 bottles of water. Unlike American hotels where a beer would have cost me $6 or more, I only had to pay a couple pesos. I finished the beer, changed clothes, and closed the door behind me.
A few of us got to the lobby early and were comparing notes from the day. Someone asked, "Did you see the American flag out front?"
"Yes, I was told that it's the first time ever here. They just put it on a pole out front."
The Melia Cohiba Hotel was built in the 1990s when the Cuban government opened its doors to specific types of foreign investment. Since it was a choice for many diplomats and other working visitors from all over the world, the hotel began a tradition of flying flags out front representing the various countries of its visitors that day.
That is, unless you were American.
"Derrick, you have to get a picture of this."
"I will. I want it in the morning light. Morning will be good for this shot."
At breakfast, I had two cups of Cuban coffee, two fried eggs on a pancake, and a banana. I then went out front and photographed the first American flag ever flown at the Melia Cohiba Hotel. I watched it flapping in the breeze for a few moments, then put away the camera and greeted my friends.
We boarded our bus for the meeting in Havana. Our driver, Pedro (whom we all had become quite fond of), pulled a small U.S. flag from his shirt pocket. It was attached to a wooden stick, looking like a table decoration from a Fourth of July picnic. I had no idea where he got it.
He attached it to the Rosary hanging from his rear view mirror. I was tickled seeing it hanging there in the front window. We then departed for downtown Havana to attend to the day's business ahead:
Fourteen North Americans, two Cubans,
and one American flag.