Ah, historic HAVANA!  Big enough to be a city since 1592, with heavy fortifications built at the harbour entrance to fend off the pirates of the     1600’s.  A perimeter wall was added to the defenses in the 1700’s, only to be torn down in 1863 to make room for a rapidly expanding metropolis.  After the first revolution in the late 1800’s, the country ended up under United States control.  The 1930’s brought gangsters, casinos, money, and of course, corruption to Havana, turning it in to a veritable sin city.  Fulgencio Batista was the man in charge,  and brutality and greed reigned over Cuba.  Change finally came on January 1st, 1959, when the irrepressible forces led by Fidel Castro,”Che” Guevara, and Camilio Cienfuegos were poised to take over Havana, and Batista fled by plane with a personal fortune of dirty money estimated at 300 million dollars. 

Today, still under the rule of Castro, Havana is a city of contrasts.  Beautifully maintained and restored buildings stand amidst those that have been allowed to crumble into the streets.  Fifty year old (or more) American cars of all makes share the narrow streets and wide boulevards with Russian Ladas from the seventies, and  rarely, newer Chinese and European models.  Sharply dressed  Cubanos riding on 40 year old Chinese bicycles.  Humble corner bodegas where Cubans can pick up their rations of rice, eggs, bread etc., and huge department stores full of stuff that most of the population will never be able to afford.

We settled in to our cosy casa, made arrangements for some Spanish lessons, and set to wandering through the ever busy streets of this lively city.  Often we would walk along the Malecon, an eight kilometer long sea wall pummelled by waves and wind during storms, but packed with Habaneros (residents of Havana, not the hot peppers) on fair weather evenings.  One night  we  passed hundreds of people, hanging out and having a good time with friends, drinking, fishing, playing or listening to music, and making out.  A fantastic part of the city.

 
 
STREET SCENES:

Narrow streets ebb and flow with the pulse of lively Habana.

Bici-Taxis in front of Hotel Parque Central, Habana Centro.

Beautiful tall doors, arched windows, and intricately painted tiles abound.

Old man and door.

Weekend market stall on Avenue Salvador Allende.

Cubans love cake. We often saw people carrying brightly coloured elaborately decorated cakes down the street, but this guy has the ideal bike set-up.

Old books for sale at the book bazaar in Plaza de Armas.

Murals are found everywhere in Cuba, always patriotic and pro-socialism. This is one of our favorites, hidden in a gritty schoolyard on a narrow side street.

Dodging the rain of an evening lightning storm by drinking mojitos.

GALLERIES, ART, and other DETAILS:

Gallery on Avenue Neptuno, Habana Centro.

Type writer detail.

Random objects nicely organized...

12 artists interpretations of sexuality at a print gallery on Avenue Simon Bolivar.

Interesting piece from a ceramics gallery on Mercaderes.

Not sure how to interpret this one...

The world as an army helmet dinner, served on a plate of skulls!?!...

Crazy tree couple tile mural.

Perseverence?

MUSEO de la REVOLUCION

Che, Castro, and Camilio Cienfuegos, the tres hombres who overthrew the rule of Batista (a corrupt, brutal and ruthless dictator) and planted the seed of socialism in Cuba.

The Museo de la Revolucion is housed in the former Presidential Palace.

Detail from a SAU-100 tank used by Castro in the battle at the Bay of Pigs, now parked in front of the Museo.

After an enjoyable ten days in Havana, we were excited to hit the road again and escape the one thing we didn’t like so much: the air quality can only be described as poor in this grand ciudad.

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