Category:

Old Homes and Tangos

April 28

Another walk through parts of Old Havana, past the Capitol and the closed-for-restoration National Theater. Colorfully painted and architecturally beautiful buildings give one the sense of the grandeur of what was here. People live in many of these old buildings, and others are being restored. Photograph street scenes and talk to Dustin about recent changes that permit people to get licenses and own their own businesses, changes pushed by Raul Castro, who is in his late seventies. Fidel, about 87, appears still to be with it and healthy, according to Dustin.

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Another breakfast on the very pleasant rooftop of our hotel, then meet at 9 for taxis to the huge Havana cemetery, Necropolis Cristóbal Colón, where since its founding in 1871, over two million people are buried. Walk around the cemetery for 40 minutes, but cannot even scratch the surface.

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Then off to see a mansion called Casa Miguel Alonso, in the Vedado, or forbidden, area, which is still owned by a family, that, unlike most wealthy families, never left during the revolution. Miguel died a few months ago, so we are shown around by his wife, Josie, who is clearly sad after 54 years of marriage, but is friendly and speaks English. The home feels a bit like a real movie set of the past history and shows the decaying signs of age with little update. We spend quite some time photographing. Though I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, some of the photos are not too bad.

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We lunch at El Gringo Viejo, in the home of the owner, who is involved in the society that protects old cars in Havana. The food is very good. I have lobster in a garlic sauce, some others have pigs elbows. And plenty of cold beer.

Back to the hotel for brief blogging and relaxing before setting out for our afternoon adventure, which starts with a walk some distance in more heat than we’ve been having. We are visiting a house which, at various times, has served as a warehouse, a hotel for sailors, a whorehouse and currently is divided into many small apartments. The ones we visit are up three steep flights. We’re welcomed by the residents and able to look and walk into their quarters, and talk and photograph them. Vestiges of stained glass windows from a prior incarnation remain.

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Henry and I decide to go to the nearby hotel to check emails and, in my case, to make a blog post. After this, we walk down a main drag called the Prado, where dancing, dominoes playing and kids playing are going on, among other things. We give some of the children small gifts we’ve brought (lollipops and other candy, in my case), which delights them.

As anticipated, we hook up with the rest of our group at the Malecon, for a walk along the sea wall, where we watch young men diving from rocks into the ocean and chat with some locals.

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After a while, we break into groups, with JP and Karin and I heading back down the Prado with Dustin. I photograph couples dancing the tango and old cars whizzing by in blurs.

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After a while, I walk back to the hotel, wash and change shirts and head out to dinner at a nearby restaurant, Nao, that had been recommended by Dustin. After a really very good beef dinner (with excellent fries) and a couple Bucanero (think pirates) beers, I head back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow morning’s rather early departure for Trinidad.

I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of Havana and would welcome more time here (I have less than a day after Trinidad). It does feel like a trip back in time, and not only because of the vintage cars, though that certainly adds to the feel. There’s a flavor of the exotic here, though I don’t find it easy to pinpoint why. One begins to get a small feel for the Cuba’s complicated history and it’s troubled relationship with the US. Not unlike Myanmar, there’s an undercurrent of possible change, though formidable obstacles remain.

4 comments to Old Homes and Tangos

  • Sharon

    Pigs’ elbows? I guess they use them to elbow their way through the mud. Beautiful photos, Arnie.

  • Eve

    Love the photos. Such a rich history and so little time!
    Eve.

  • Aaron Freeman

    Lovely pictures. You draw words good too.

  • Wendy

    Great photos, Dadz! The ones of the women in the apartments remind me of going to Nana’s for some reason, though this is clearly different. (You didn’t have to be buzzed up, did you? And they didn’t cry into their Kleenex and stumble on the curb as they waved goodbye to you, did they?) I like the first two pictures a lot and the ones you took in the mansion, plus the one of the guy diving off the rocks (!) and the one of the guy with the hair as tall as the lamppost.
    L,
    W.

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