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Archive for Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cubans guard glasses on Lennon statue after thefts

Juan Gonzalez, is a watchman for the John Lennon statue in Havana. Ever since thieves twice stole the round-rimmed wire spectacles from the nose of the statue, four retirees have rotated 12-hour day and night shifts to ensure they don't go missing again.

Juan Gonzalez, is a watchman for the John Lennon statue in Havana. Ever since thieves twice stole the round-rimmed wire spectacles from the nose of the statue, four retirees have rotated 12-hour day and night shifts to ensure they don't go missing again.

June 8, 2008

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— All he needs is love - and someone to keep an eye on his glasses.

Ever since thieves twice swiped the iconic round-rimmed spectacles from Havana's John Lennon statue eight years ago, four retirees have rotated 12-hour, round-the-clock shifts to ensure they don't go missing again.

"You have to be here every day because the day you aren't, there the glasses go," said watchman Juan Gonzalez, an 89-year-old retired filing clerk who smokes up to seven cigars a day guarding the bronze statue from a nearby bench.

In fact, the guards are so worried about another theft that they hold onto the glasses in shirt pockets or rags, restoring them to Lennon's face only when tourists want to take pictures.

Lennon's likeness sits cross-legged in a small park bearing his name, a place casually known as "Rockers Park" because amateur musicians and Beatles fans gathered there in the days when the group was banned. The "Imagine" lyric, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," is engraved in Spanish at his feet.

Cuba inaugurated the statue on Dec. 8, 2000, to mark the 20th anniversary of Lennon's slaying. Fidel Castro once labeled the Beatles subversive and symbols of selfish consumerism. But he made a surprise appearance at the unveiling and lamented never meeting Lennon.

The statue was a way to make up for the repression of the past, Castro said, though he stopped short of apologizing for it.

Within weeks, its snazzy bronze spectacles - which were made for the statue and never belonged to Lennon - had been stolen, and someone made off with a more generic replacement pair a short time later.

Other Lennon statues have suffered similar fates - in November, someone stole the glasses off his statue in his hometown of Liverpool, England.

The Havana thieves were never caught, and officials began discussing ways to more firmly affix a third set of glasses, made from a plain, golden-brown colored alloy, to Lennon's nose. But they decided instead to recruit watchmen. Gonzalez, who lives nearby, was a natural choice.

He said he likes the job, despite the stinging black ants that inundate the park. He can spend time chatting with his neighbors. But he's no Beatles fan.

"I like all kinds of music," Gonzalez said, mockingly dancing in place and bobbing his head. "But not that."

Today, the Beatles are everywhere. State television airs video of their concerts, musicians pay homage to them with tribute bands and children use their music in school plays.

But many visitors still wonder why Lennon - who never visited or sang about Cuba - has a statue here.

"You don't expect a British band in Cuba," said Theresa McDermott, a 62-year-old tourist from Kildare, Ireland. "And why don't they have the rest of the Beatles?"

The glasses-on-request system works fine - except at meal time.

Gonzalez and the glasses had left for a bite to eat when Pedro Martinez, deputy director of Radio Havana, visited the park on a recent afternoon. He complained the statue looked naked without its spectacles and held out his own pair, which were gold-colored but had larger, square frames.

"I'll lend mine," he laughed. "No one will want to steal them."

Comments

cato_the_elder 6 years, 3 months ago

A statue of John Lennon in current-day Havana is quintessentially appropriate.

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igby 6 years, 3 months ago

These Cubans may think it's Jesus and that someone put the eye glasses on it for a joke, so they keep taking them off. or,They may think that Lennon was the USSR commie leader from the turn of the century.

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