I love my Nan.
So I just had to have the Granma shirt I saw in a shop window in Bayamo, Cuba.
Getting the shirt, though, wasn’t so easy.
Firstly, the shop was closed. Secondly, when the shop did open, I wasn’t allowed to buy it.
The shop was closed on the day I first saw the shirt because the locals were proudly celebrating the role the city had played in Che and Fidel’s struggle against Batista. So, I enjoyed watching the festivities as something of a consolation for being unable to buy Nan’s shirt and for being unable to organise a tour to the surrounding hills which had provided refuge to the revolutionaries.
The next day I set off for the shop in the knowledge that I would take home a very unique souvenir for my beloved Nan.
When I walked into the shop, I attracted puzzled looks from the shop attendants and I was soon to discover that the looks weren’t provoked by the relative dearth of tourists in the city. It was because I wasn’t allowed to buy the shirts.
When I approached the counter with the three shirts, (one for Nan, one for me…and one for fun) I was told I could only pay with Cuban Pesos (CP) which are used by Cubans, and not the tourist friendly Cuban Convertible Pesos (CCP), which is all I had.
I then asked, a little too loudly, if I could exchange my CCP for CP, but the nervous glances and hushed reply told me that the authorities worked very hard to ensure the twain between the two currencies ne’er shall meet.
It was suggested to me, in further hushed tones, that I might visit another shop in the vicinity which might be able to accommodate my needs.
With slight trepidation I walked the few blocks to what turned out to be a general store/hardware store. Once inside, I pretended to affirm my masculinity by assessing the handsaws and adjustable wrenches, but the owner immediately reacted to my nationality (or my unconvincing display of masculinity) by enquiring as to the true purpose of my visit.
With a few furtive glances outside and a nod of the head, he motioned me towards the back of the shop to complete the ‘intercambio’, upon the assurance that I would not divulge the name of his shop to anyone.
Thus cash was exchanged and I headed back to the shop to claim my prize.
This time I pretended to ask the staff for directions before quietly exchanging the cash for the shirts which had been kindly stashed behind the counter and were now handed over in discreet packaging.
I thanked the staff and directed myself hastily towards my lodging to secure the package.
I later discovered from my friendly hosts that the t-shirt was that of the local baseball team, the Granma Alazanes, and that the province of Granma, of which Bayamo is the capital, was named after the yacht that Che, Fidel and Co. had used to navigate the waters of Cuba and its surrounds during the revolution.
Such an arduous day’s shopping had left me with an appetite so after securing the package I decided to use the remaining Cuban Pesos at a local hamburger joint.
I wish I hadn’t.
It was the worst hamburger I had ever tasted; made worse by the fact that I’d walked through the kitchen to get to the bathroom before consuming it.
Burger aside, this tale does include a happy ending.
The t-shirts made it home and one was presented to Nan on Christmas Day, the same day that we all discovered that my sister had made my Mum a grandma for the first time.
Lucky I bought three.