“Havanna na-na-na”…. my new favorite. If you have just read my previous blog about my cajón, a large wooden percussion instrument you sit on and beat grooves with, then you will know that I fell in love with just about everything Spanish, Hispanic, mozárabe and Cuba in 2004.
Fidel Castro was still alive and featured on every wall that didn’t already have Che on it, Raúl was in the sidelines, US citizens were not allowed in, the embargo was still on, most Cubans worked for next to nothing in Cuban pesos and got a bit more in US dollars if they could work for tourism. Basic food stuffs, such as rice, black beans, milk and sugar were still rationed out on miniature cards, all our tourist guides were academics, engineers, teachers and the like. Those who had studied mathematics in Chemnitz or medicine in Leipzig or Russian in Moscow all needed a sponsor to enable their studies in East Germany or Russia. The Fifties still reign supreme in La Habana : those cool cruisers, the famous Tropicana, the cigar factories you may not carry bags into, the rum shops, “Granma” and other Castro vehicles from the Bahía de los Cochinos, the decaying houses with crazy electric wiring owned by colorfully clothed Cubans who cannot even pay for a bag of cement – which, historically, was a donation by Honecker in exchange for oranges too bitter for the Eastern Germans’ taste. The guagua (public bus) still comes around at odd hours – provided there is enough gasoline from Venezuela and spare parts from former Soviet trucks.
Notwithstanding, there is nothing more beautiful than watching Cubans dance to the son rhythm, hearing musicians play Buena Vista songs, observing affluent tourists smoke a fat cigar, breathing the salty, heavily scented, hot, humid air, standing in a cloudburst in Cienfuegos, miraculously evaporating in less than 20 minutes, watching laughing children jump into the saltos (waterfalls) and slide into the cool water below, sipping a pina colada or mojito and savoring the sunset in a tropical garden. Qué hermosa es.