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It’s a question that naturally calls for a clear-eyed look at the kind of country it once was.
What better place to start looking than with the legend of Superman?
The Fifties in Cuba was an era of graft and corruption, mobsters, and American money.
It was an embarrassment, a stain, and Superman was the human embodiment of that stain. began to thaw, that time was finally being reexamined, Prieto said. Fidel Castro waits in the Sierra Maestra while in the city the clubs and cabarets overflow with tourists, gangsters, and movie stars.
“Superman, as a character, was very deep in the American imagination.
They had a saying: ‘Cuba is a place where conscience takes a holiday.’” Prieto had been investigating Superman for his forthcoming book.
He’d found a few people who knew the man, but his story remained a mystery.
Most of it was rumor, hearsay, maybe true, maybe not. He lived in Barrio de Los Sitios, across from a church.
Prieto was 60 years old, a heavy smoker with black hair and a laid-back demeanor.
The mayor’s son drew on his cigarette, thought back sixty years, paused, and made a chopping motion on his lower thigh—fifteen inches, give or take, from his groin to just above his knee. It was like Year Zero.” And into that void, the story of Superman disappeared.
“The women said, ‘He has a machete.’” The mayor’s son is in his seventies now, but he was a teenager back then, during the years of Havana’s original sin. A man who was once famous well beyond Cuba’s shores—who was later fictionalized in —was largely forgotten, a footnote in a sordid history. , a musty rental apartment owned by an aging former diplomat.
When we met in his office in Vedado, he seemed bemused by our quest.
Superman, it turned out, was a fascination of Prieto’s as well.The mayor’s son once got blind drunk with Benny Moré, the famous Cuban crooner who had a regular gig at the Guadalajara. The mayor’s son never met the legendary performer, but everybody knew about him. According to local lore, the Shanghai featured live sex shows. I had come with photographer Mike Magers to trace the story of Superman, or whatever we could find of it.