The last Mojito in Dresden
Ok. This is not a piece about the last mojito in Dresden. For all I know there are plenty of mojitos to be had in the quaint German Town. Although, it is so cold in Dresden, that understandably there could be a run on mojitos.
As a Puerto Rican who travels on business quite frequently and for vacation somewhat, I am often searching, high and low, for a mojito. To my absolute delight and puzzlement, there are mojitos everywhere in Berlin. And, they are cheap. Happy hour mojitos are less than 4 Euros at most restaurants I have passed by in Berlin. The city of Berlin has been a veritable winter wonderland with beautiful sceneries just begging to be photographed. Of course, while the scenery is beautiful to the camera’s eye, the hand catches frostbite. Can you catch or do you get frostbite. Yes, get frostbite. Even with thick gloves on, my fingers have been near falling off. Because of this crazy cold air, it is rather necessary to drink cocktails. Well, in Mimi’s travel guide, I can always find you a reason to have a cocktail. Seriously, though, you need the alcohol to burn some warmth within your body to fight off that bitter, cold air that whips across the face ever so harshly.
What is surprising to me is how easily I can find mojitos in Berlin. In the United States, I often travel in the south and even when they have mojitos listed on the menu, they are often not able to serve me mojitos. Why, you ask? Well, they often claim they have no mint. Now, I ask, how is it that Berlin has so much mint that every restaurant can serve you a mojito or two? Oddly, there is a restaurant called mojito that is a Mexican restaurant. Mojitos, mind you, are not a Mexican drink. Margaritas are Mexican. Not Mojitos. There is this odd sense of fluid identity (pun intended) going on here that I am trying to grapple with.
Some individuals here in Germany have had a hard time understanding my Nuyorican identity. They want to address me in Spanish-which I can speak- ignoring completely my American identity. I try explaining how Americans have layered identities and how we even have the month of October as German heritage month. I kind of want to say “hey, if you can have a Mexican restaurant named mojitos, you surely can get that an American can be a Nuyorican.”
Now, I also got to thinking about layered and created identities. Germans most assuredly have been grappling with several identities passed on through history from what happened with Nazism to reunification. Their identities have been fracture and reassembled repeatedly. Now, let’s look at Dresden. You were wondering when I would talk about Dresden, right?
I got to visit Dresden this past week and it was lovely. It is like three cities in one. It has an old town, historical center that is quite ornate and regal looking. It then has a “regular” city area that is both somewhat quaint and somewhat graffiti-ridden just like any other European city. Then it has this gorgeous fairy-tale land area. Many visitors just see the regal area. Yet, all three areas have to been seen in order to get a sense for what the city really is like. The “regal”area (my name for the city center) consists of grand baroque style architecture reminding one of its grand days of yore. The bombing raid on Dresden at the end of world War II destroyed almost all of the ancient center of the city. Everyone will tell you that 75% of the city is reconstructed. Yet, the buildings are built in an old architectural style and the buildings (even when relatively new) are darkened and black, with a certain old patina look. It is a reconstructed identity that seems real. Or rather, is real. No one can forget that the city was bombed almost into oblivion, yet you walk around and feel transported to a time at the turn of last century and it does not feel fake-like a disneyworld version. Identity. Layered identity. That is what is on my mind.
Frighteningly, a few days before I got to Dresden there had been a series of anti-immigrant rallies. I saw no evidence of the rallies or anti-immigrant sentiment when I was there. Interestingly, as well in this identity vein, Dresden lost its world heritage site status a few years back after residents voted to and then built a bridge over the river Elbe. It was a matter of practicality and after driving through Dresden I get the need for the bridge but I wonder could there have been another way? However, this lost of world heritage site standing goes to root of the matter with which I am grappling.
During my week here in Berlin, I have felt that the notion of identity is foremost here but its one that Germans are willing to be flexible with. Perhaps. I am not too sure if flexibility is the word I am going for. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that they seem to have gotten used to a fluid identity although when it comes to this Nuyorican’s fluid identity they are a bit flummoxed.
I think I need to think about this a bit more. However, I feel that if there was truly a last mojito in Dresden, they would shrug and make a new one of what ever ingredients were around. It would then be the new and improved Dresden mojito.