Havana has been home to many wellknown ‘characters’. They were and still are very famous, like The Gentleman of Paris, The Macorina, The Marquise and Cat Moustache.
Less popular and not so wellremembered is Jesús Rodríguez Salgueiro, a Galician who settled in Havana and used to say that he was the last descendant of Christopher Columbus. Salgueiro became famous during the 1920s in the area known as Havana’s Paseo del Prado avenue. His long hair, tiny hat, walking stick and Spanish cape were his distinguishing features. He never asked for a dime but accepted invitations from friends and rides in cars. He lived off the charity of some country fellows who discretely supported him and finally sent him back to Galicia, where his relatives put him in an asylum.
But Salgueiro did not want to leave Havana. In order to persuade him to go, he was told that the king, who was his friend and relative, wanted him back. The Spanish consul therefore called him for a meeting and officially told Mr. Jesús Rodríguez Salgueiro, the legitimate and only Duque of Veragua, that His Majesty Alfonso XIII needed him back to entrust him the Viceroyalty of Riff.
-If it is a State issue, I will leave as soon as possible– Salgueiro told his friends, who did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Another character still remembered by people from Havana is Félix “El Andarin” (fond of walking) Carvajal. Havana’s residents, mostly the elderly, remember him with the phrase: I walked longer than El Andarín Carvajal». Even when he was very old, he could walk miles without showing signs of tiredness. He just did not stop and he lived on the little money he would earn along the way.
Félix Carvajal was very fond of sport and had exceptional skills for long-distance racing. He would have covered Cuba with glory had he been born in a different period but Carvajal lived the best years of his life during the first decades of the Republic. The governments at the time did not help him at all and he got very little support from private initiatives.
When the 1904 Olympics in San Luis, United States, were approaching, he asked the Estrada Palma government to cover his airfare to be able to represent Cuba in the competitions. He was given no support, however Andarín Carvajal still managed to attend the Olympic Games.
He arrived just a few minutes before the marathon race started and registered in representation of Cuba. There was only one problem however; he did not have the appropriate clothing for the race, yet he solved the problem easily. He asked for a pair of scissors and cut the trousers he was wearing to turn them into shorts.
Having overcome that obstacle, he got onto the athletics track. He heard the shot and started running. But El Andarin had not eaten anything in days because he had spent the money on his ticket. He could see apple trees on both sides of the track and field as he was running. He could not help himself and stopped to eat some apples. They were not ripe but he did not mind. Once fully satisfied, he started running again.
The combination of the green apples and his empty stomach did not go down well. He was feeling so bad that he could hardly take another step. He left the track and crouched down behind a tree. He thought the discomfort had gone and went back to the track. But he had to leave it over and over again. In spite of all these problems, he came fourth in the competition.
Upon his return to Cuba, the government rewarded him with a position as a postman. El Andarín Carvajal would die blowing his whistle while running along the Havana streets making a living.Share on FB Share on TT