Should I have brought my little red book?
One of my less endearing and more frustrating qualities is my poor sense of direction. Ever since I arrived in Maputo, I have been looking high and low for a compact map of the city to carry. Because the city sits on a peninsula, I can not use the water as a reference point. This city does not have the convenient grid system of Washington DC. I have started to carry around my copy of the Lonely Planet guide for Mozambique that I bought before I left the States. However, pulling that out in public screams tourist. Which of course I want to avoid.
So, instead I have been going on increasingly long walks to get a better feel for the location of things in the city. On Sunday, I decided to walk out of the baixa. I left the hotel and began walking up the cross street. The cross street of course named Avenida Karl Marx. I tried to head to the National Art Museum, but it was closed much like the rest of the city on a Sunday. So I continued my stroll, passing by the cathedral. I made a right onto Avenida Ho Chi Minh. I decided to head back to the baixa for lunch so I turned down the street next to the cathedral. This street was called Avenida Vladimir Lenine.
Two days ago, I went apartment hunting for the second time. The building was on the corner of Av. 24 de julho and Av. Salvador Allende. I saw a parade of protesters today objecting to the status of Mozambican workers in Germany. The cafe where I ate dinner tonight was at the corner of Av. Mao Tse Tung and Av. Kim Il Sung. I looked at the map in my book later and saw the only one that I am missing is Av. Friedrich Engels. (Although, who remembers that he was a coauthor of the Communist Manifesto anyway?)
I have seen some cities with interesting street names. Most of the main streets in Salvador were named after important dates in the fight for independence and the others featured the names of prominent figures. I wasn’t expecting to see the Communist Hall of Fame on every street corner. It is funny to see the vestiges of Mozambique’s previous affiliation with the USSR so prominently displayed. Things obviously changed a great deal after the civil war broke out, with the final establishment of its multi party system in 1990. The practice would be analogous to the United States having streets like King George the III Boulevard and Articles of Confederation Avenue. Maybe Mozambicans have a different way of remembering their past. Or maybe they just didn’t want to spring for all new street signs.