Over the years much has been written about Havana Cuba. There is no doubt that it’s unique. Coming out of a chequered past. A history that over the years featured characters as diverse as Hemingway and the Mafia.
Today it features old American cars - relics of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Travelling through streets lined with eye-catching classical architecture. Many, if not most, of these buildings, are now dirty and dilapidated.
Crumbling through a combination of failed policies and a lack of money. With renovated buildings in varying states of repair sprinkled amongst the decaying infrastructure. Creating a stark contrast.
Society mixed into the landscape like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Created by an eclectic mix of vibrant music and interesting people. An exotic merge of European and African looks and cultures. Massive men with bulging biceps. Stunning women with glutes that make Jennifer Lopez look like a ramp model.
The Malecon, or esplanade, winds along next to the majestic, buildings on one side of the road. With the crashing sea on the other side. From a distance, it is easy to overlook the many neglected buildings.
It’s confusing. One accepts that it's what it is … but left wondering what could it be?
Sadly something seems to be missing.
Sightseeing in Havana Cuba
There is lots to see. Many museums, many buildings and art galleries. Yet like many things in Cuba some done quite well while others are shoddy. Poorly signposted with inadequate information.
Translations in English are available at some and not others.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
As we only had a few days in Havana we decided to do this trip on a day with nasty weather. A howling wind with rain on and off throughout the day. Despite the condition, we managed to see some planned sights. We also took our first walk through the Vieja area.
We bought our first ETECSA internet access cards an introduction to the bizarre internet system. After buying the tickets we made our way to our first internet zone. Areas scattered around the cities in random areas.
We realised that from an internet point of view it was going to be a long three weeks in Cuba!!
Museum of Revolutionaries
The museum follows the history of Cuba from the time of the Revolution in 1959. One interesting fact I discovered was that Che Guevara was an Argentinian trained physician.
The story in the museum provides a very one-sided, politically biased version of Cuban history. As one would expect it's nothing like the story portrayed by the American media.
There was one section that I loved was a large edifice named “Cretin Corner”. This large wall features George and GW Bush, Reagan and their Cuban stooge Batiste. As I wandered away I wondered when they would include Trump?
During our trip, we had visited war museums in Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. Added to these was a visit to an unexploded ordnance facility in Luang Prabang in Laos. Exposed here to the indiscriminate bombing damage done to Laos during the Vietnam war.
From these experiences, it is easy to conclude that the US Department of Defence should still be called the Department of War!
Square of Independence
A large empty square overlooked by an imposing government building and statue. Patrolled day and night by the military. In the evening large neon displays of the faces of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos light up the park.
I was amused by the fact that after a People’s Revolution the day we were there the "people" were not permitted up to the area of the Jose Marti statue. Signs and guards discouraged any entry.
One interesting sighting we had on the trip was seeing the South African Embassy. This is one of the few buildings in immaculate condition. There were many cars parked outside but very little activity and no people about.
My First Day Wrapup
Havana represents Cuba. A communist country with an obvious privileged political class. This class characterised by very fine homes in pristine condition. Frequenting upmarket expensive tourist restaurants and driving the few modern vehicles. A stark contrast to the rest of the large expanses of decaying infrastructure.
Wandering around during the day and early evening I never felt threatened. There was a sense of community but also a sense of resignation. With conditions like they in Cuba life is challenging and tough. It must be very hard to be motivated and positive about the future.
Like many third world countries, there is tons of potential. But to exploit the opportunities requires leadership. It might also help if the US decided that they have far more pressing issues than continuing sanctions on this tiny country.