¡Patina O Muerte!
Two thousand miles southeast of the birthplace of skateboarding, in Havana, Cuba, I discovered a band of skateboarders not unlike the pioneering Venice crew I remember from my childhood. They have turned the entire city into their own skatepark; stairs, rails, and public monuments are all fair game. Empty fountains are swept out and skated in. Young boys learn to ollie on broken concrete and dirt. Equipment is scarce, and broken boards are patched and nailed back together. Still, they skate with the same wild freedom of the guys back home.
Patina o Muerte – Skate or Die –they say in Havana. They used to say that in Venice when I was young. It is a universal sentiment among the brotherhood of skaters. No matter their differences – when they skate, they all feel the same anticipation and fear, and the same pain when they hit the ground. They are boys who live for the hope that their next run will launch them so high that they will be free from the Earth’s gravitational pull and reach the stars. They need to skate to live. ¡Patina y viva!