Victor & Joanne's Cuban Adventure travel blog

Afro Cuban music event at Callejon de Hamel

Qincinera..beautiful gold dress and proud parents

February 7 - Exploring La Habana

Walking, walking, walking is the order of the day. (Joanne doesn't believe in getting there by any other mode). We covered quite a lot and if we had to sum it up, we'd agree that La Habana is a combination of rich culture and devastating squalor. When we have been here before, it has been with a tour and we have never really been exposed to the reality of the living standards here. People on tours are very sheltered from the real Havana. Getting used to the "real" Havana would take some time. The North American standard we're used to is definitely difficult to shake when everywhere you walk in La Habana Centre there are derelict buildings, sidewalks with huge gaping holes and an obstacle course of puddles and garbage to walk around. People here are friendly and we always feel safe, but the sight of travellers simply elicits the opportunity to enrich their meagre livelihood with questions of "Do you need a good restaurant?" It is truly understandable, given their economy, but also very sad and frustrating.

One such incident happened when a young couple engaged us in conversation in the usual way..."where are you from?" and in a short time we were asked for help in obtaining some milk for their children. "No, no money is needed, just milk" they don't have the means to purchase powdered milk, but we do. How can we refuse an apparently sincere request to food. So they led us to a store where they ordered the powdered milk and left us to pay the bill (15CUC...for the equivalent of a Thrifty bag fulll of packages of powdered milk). We rationalized that it was a small contribution to a young family in need, even though it was done with a little subtrefuge.

Our walk did take us to a wonderful Afro-Cuban music performance in a tiny alcove off the street called "callejon de hamel". Jam packed with people so that it was hard to see the group, but we did hear them clearly. There wasn't a soul watching that couldn't handle the syncopated rhythms of the group. These people are born with rhythm in their bones. Cuban drums are found everywhere and can be heard everywhere. Musicians are exceptional and even though their instruments are deteriorating as quickly as the buildings, their music seems to survive and thrive. One of the reasons that keep people coming back and hoping for better things to come for the country.

Our evening ended with a splendid meal at Meson de La Flota (29CUC). Waiting for our meal, a young woman celebrating her quincinera (15th birthday) which also houses a Flamenco dance troupe that was spectacular.

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