Havana, the pearl of the Caribbean sea

Havana, the pearl of the Caribbean sea
Ignacio Zara
Havana, old district

Havana, old district

Havana, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Caribbean region, it’s one of the most beautiful cities around the world. ‘The Pearl of the Caribbean sea’ it has been called. ‘The Pearl of the Crown’ it was called in Spain, years ago.

The Spanish Conqueror Diego Velazquez founded La Habana in 1514. It changed two times of place and finally, it was located in the beautiful ‘Careening Bay’, which now hosts Havana’s harbor, an important harbor very easy to defend with two opposite castles: ‘El Castillo’ and ‘La Puntilla’.

1898 was a tragic year for Spain. Spain lost Cuba and the queen Maria Cristina dressed in mourning forever and never again she played her beloved piano: plantations of coffee, of snuff, of sugar cane and cocoa…, an immense wealth of tropical fruits, forests of mahogany, tasty fish… all was lost and the queen cried, and the people too. It was not only an economic loss because in Havana continued the sweet music and the nice people and everybody who has been in Cuba, specially in Havana, wants to return.

Today, Havana has a population of more than two million people and three important areas: the old quarter, el Vedado, and the new districts.

The old quarter is Baroque, full of great mansions with arcades on the ground floor. People walked under their porches, brightly colored dresses while they chat. They live in the streets, they are happy, they smile to the tourists, everything is a welcome. Today as yesterday. It’s difficult to leave Havana.

old Cadillac

old Cadillac

The large Cadillacs of 40’s and 50’s are now in a museum, the casinos have closed and the economy is communist. Poverty is seen in the lack of paint on the walls, in rationing, in some ruins but visitants are fond of its Malecón, boardwalk by the blue sea, of its pubs with live music, of their night dances. Everybody loves the old quarter! Decadent but unique.

El Vedado is an area of big chalets. They always have been of the rich people, capitalists (now in the exile) or communists, it’s an area quiet and clean, some big hotels for tourists are there.

The new districts have no interest, too functional, too Russian style.

Who doesn’t want to take a mojito in Havana?… Or maybe two.

Who doesn’t want to go to the Baroque Great Theatre of Havana, home of the National Ballet of Cuba?

I love the Museum of Decorative Arts, known as the “small French Palace of Havana” with a design inspired in Paris French Renaissance, I love the African house and its large collection of Afro-Cuban religious artifacts, but I love the Catholic cathedral too, because Havana is a city full of contrasts, multiracial and multicultural and people have  shown they are more than their rulers.

The Cigar Museum; the Napoleonic, Colonial and Oricha Museums; the Museum of Anthropology; the Ernest Hemingway Museum; the José Martí Monument; the Aircraft Museum… Museums of perfumes and gold and silverwork, sports and weapons.

Havana, poor city forced to be rich, it still has three important festivals: Havana Film Festival, Havana International Jazz Festival and International Ballet Festival of Havana.

It’s difficult to leave Havana.

Havana, Che Guevara

Havana, Che Guevara

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