Tuesday, January 22, 2013

La Habana (I)

La Habana, Cuba. For a long time it had been one of the places where I wanted to go the most in the world. And finally, there I was. One of the first cities built by the Spaniards in the Americas and our last colony... then, it got associated with casinos and mafia during Batista's dictatorship and American influence... and, finally, it got independence from any foreign influence, got communist and suffered a terrible embargo which has been painfully enforced up to date. Wow, quite a convulse history for such a beautiful city and such charming people.

Because of the above mentioned embargo, the city is in ruins. Basically, any American company or company somehow linked to America cannot do any trade with Cuba. This makes very hard for Cuba to import anything from their neighbors, as everybody prefers to trade with the US. The result is the economy is precarious and some areas of Havana are crumbling due to the lack of funds to repair the collapsing buildings. This is specially clear in Centro Habana, the area between Habana Vieja and Vedado, the newer central area. All of Old Havana is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage. And UNESCO injects quite some money, basic to keep the best colonial ensemble in the Americas in an acceptable condition.

La Habana is really an amazing city. The former splendor of buildings can still be felt just walking around the main streets between Habana Vieja and Centro. The first glances at the National Theatre, the Capitol or many other anonymous buildings are quite unforgettable. As it is walking around the crumbling streets next to these architectural jewels...

Habana Vieja's life is intense, with music coming out of every open doors. Restaurants for tourists with life music are the perfect places for listening to traditional Cuban music, Son. Improvised parties in balconies are the best places to listen to modern music, basically reggaeton. And of course, any music is listened to with a cocktail in your hand, a mojito, daiquiri, cuba libre, pina colada... and in some cases, with a good cigar in your other hand!

The colonial area is amazing. Plaza de Armas, for example, is one of the most amazing examples of traditional Spanish architecture in the Americas. Old huge houses, palaces and even a fortress dot this Plaza, one of the main four in Habana Vieja.

The main attraction here is just walking around, getting lost in narrow streets and finding your way after a while. And stopping in some bar from time to time to listen to music and drink a mojito.

One of the most famous places for mojitos is La Bodeguita del Medio, a bar favored by Ernest Hemingway and by many other people. Mojitos here are prepared a la Hemingway: a lot of rum and not much sugar, which make them specially hard, but also tasty.

The place is full of graffiti and pictures of famous people, including famous Americans even if it is forbidden for them to travel to Cuba. 

It is also common for famous people to take a picture behind the bar, with the barman and holding the La Bodeguita del Medio logo. Of course, my son was also requested to take the famous photo and this is the result. He is simple amazing! ;)

He actually became the star of the place while we were there...

Back in to the streets, wandering aimlessly, you can always find the interesting places, such as the cathedral.

... or Plaza Vieja...

... and then, get lost again before coming back to your Casa Particular to sleep...


Anonymous said...

mi nieto es un crack

Su abuela :)

Alvaro said...

Jajaja, pero eso ya lo sabiamos! No hacia falta cruzarse el mundo para ir a Cuba ;)

Su padre