A reader asks: why did I change the place names in Havana for my series?

I had a comment today on the blog from a German reader who pointed out that the place names I’d used for a hotel and bar in The Beggar’s Opera were inaccurate and wondered if I’d changed them for a reason.The answer is yes.

The bar is a very famous one in Havana and its name has been trademarked by a US company that has a bar of the same name in the US. (I’ve also seen the same name on a bar in the Czech Republic.) I contacted the US corporation to see if they had any problems with me using the real name as I knew the book would be published in the US, and they said not as long as there weren’t any negative connotations to its use. If it was connected to an assault, however, that could be troublesome.

Since the fictional bar is the site for prostitution and a tourist being drugged, I decided to change it to something else to avoid potential liability. (I know we have disclaimers that say the characters and events are fictitious, but I wasn’t satisfied that was enough.)

But that also got me thinking. What if I used the real names of these locations and readers believed these kinds of things really happened at them? That really wouldn’t be fair to these wonderful establishments, so I decided that I’d rather fictionalize the names. I also renamed a famous alley in Havana as well as the hotel and the park across the street.

The reader also wondered why I referred to a “Mariachi-style” bands instead of SON, and pointed out that Mariachi bands are Mexican. Yes, that’s true. But the point of view I was writing in at the time was from a tourist who wouldn’t know the difference.

I appreciate readers’ questions and am always happy to answer! I decided to answer this question right on the blog as I’m sure other readers who have been to Cuba wondered as well.

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