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The Gentleman from Paris

A medium height man, thin, of a scruffy and abundant hair and beard, dress with a black cape despite the strong Caribbean sun, was a very popular street character in Havana from the 50s of the last century. He was a kind man that could appear in any corner of the city, although he visited some regular places. He walked on the streets and travelled by bus greeting everybody and discussing about lifes philosophy, religion, politics, etc. Many people remember him as a cultivated and well educated chatterer.

He neither cursed or ever asked for charities,. He only accepted money from the persons he knew, and gave them in return a "gift", as a colored card made by himself or a piece of pencil wrapped with threads of different colors… The legendary Gentleman that travelled the streets of Havana in the past was originally from Spain and his true name was José María López Lledín. It is said he belonged to a lineage family in Lugo, Spain.

the Gentleman from ParisThe Gentleman came to Havana when he was very young; he suffered from psychological disorders after facing legal problems which put him in jail at the end of the 40s in the 20th century. He was the source of inspiration of artists, musicians, directors and even his own doctor, Luis Calzadilla wrote a book collecting his experiences with the Gentleman of Havana. In terms of music he was immortalized with a danzón.

The great voice of danzón in Cuba, Barbarito Diez, has repeated these lyrics so many times: "Mira quién viene por ahí, el Caballero de París". (See, the Gentleman from Paris is coming) In 1977 the authorities of the city decided to put him under custody considering the deteriorated condition of the Gentleman. He was hospitalized in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana.

In that place he received the care of doctors and nurses who understood the significance of such illustrious guest; he finally passed away in that institution at the age of 85 years old, in 1985. The historian of the city, Phd. Eusebio Leal Spengler, had his exhumed remains placed in the Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi, an outstanding place of the colonial architecture of the Historical Centre of Havana. A bronze statue, of natural size presents him the way he was.

It was created by the sculptor José Villa Soberón, also for initiative of Phd. Leal Spengler, it was placed afterwards in one of the laterals of the convent. That place reminds us forever the times of this great walker and preacher who was active part of the social and cultural life of Havana.