Decay, writes Dalrymple,
when not carried to excess, has its architectural charms, and ruins are romantic: so romantic that 18th-century English gentlemen built them in their gardens, as pleasantly melancholic reminders of the transience of earthly existence.
is no 18th-century English gentleman, and Havana is not his private estate, for use as a personal memento mori. The ruins of Havana that he has brought into being are the habitation of over 1m people, whose collective will, these ruins attest, is not equal in power to the will of one man. ‘Comandante en jefe,’ says one of the political billboards that have replaced all commercial advertisements, ‘you give the orders.’ The place of everyone else is to obey.