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Matanzas has been called the Athens of Cuba, for its poets, and the Venice of Cuba, for its bridges (there is, no doubt, a connection).
But to me, Matanzas is the City of Secrets.
What treasures lie locked beneath the dark waters of its harbour, the deepest in all of Cuba and long a refuge of pirates?
What experiences prompt such delight to spread across the grey-stubbled, dark-skinned face of Fausto when I agree to pay him to watch my car at the Parque de la Libertad?
What artist carved the serpents and satyrs and armoured Spanish soldiers on a pair of 12-foot doors that stand firmly closed against an otherwise drab downtown street?
And, just a few steps beyond those doors, what red sedan is this, parked shining in the rain? At the time I snap a few shots and move on, but later, studying those photos (Matanzas, 2008), I am perplexed.
Its badges look like those of an Oldsmobile, but are not. Its curved fenders imply Plymouth, but again this is a lie. Ignore the lately added bucket seats, wind-cheating mirrors and chrome grille; this is a car from the mid-1950s, if it is American, or even the early 1960s, if, as I now wonder, it arrived from England or the Soviet Union.
But what is it? I need to know.
Matanzas can keep her other secrets.