If you thought British police love their paperwork a little too much, you’ll be astounded by the number of Cuban policemen and women it takes to file a report, especially when computers are scarce. During the six hours I spent with my sister across two stations reporting being robbed on the Malecón, I also realised that officers are reluctant to solve crimes in the rain, their squad cars are on the verge of breaking down, and they don’t need cigarette breaks because they can smoke where they like. Who needs museums when you have all this to experience?
Obviously the title’s a bit of a giveaway here, so I’ll cut to the chase: my first 24 hours in the Cuban capital involved being a victim of robbery on the Malecón, breaking down in tears several times in public (there goes any semblance of street cred) and subsequently spending six hours across two of the city’s police stations with a big language barrier to overcome.
To say this was no picnic would be a massive understatement; despite reading up on the topic of poverty and crime in Havana, I was hardly prepared to have my bag strap cut from me with a knife, and in broad daylight. Whilst this isn’t the topic I wanted to talk about first when blogging about Cuba, it’s one that I just had to start with, because it altered everything.
The other night I fulfilled one of my long-term travel goals: to take a Ripper tour around Whitechapel and see where the shocking murders of 1888 took place. I’m not a fan of horror in the entertaining sense (stick me in front of a slasher film and I will develop psychosomatic symptoms of distress within a few minutes), but the case of Jack the Ripper is terrifyingly real and gives an insight into the harshness of East End London life.
Maybe it’s because he was never caught, and because there are so many theories surrounding his true identity, I’m left with plenty to mull over, and a tour seemed like the ideal opportunity to match the history with the streets themselves.