15.05.2012 - 22.05.2012 18 °C
15th May 2012
Imagine you are in a large city of significant historical importance. Huge colonial era buildings line the pavements in a state of disrepair. Plaster peals off the buildings as you walk along the cobbled streets. Metal balconies have turned to rust and exposed electrical cables pass overhead. The building at the corner has partly fallen down and the debris has, long since, been cleared away. On the road a 1956 red vintage Chevrolet drives past followed by a mint green vintage Plymouth. A motor bike and side car are right behind.
Five minutes later a boy on a cycle rickshaw stops to ask if you want a lift. Politely declining, you look around and notice people standing in their doorways: old ladies dressed in floral prints and gentleman wearing white vests and mis-buttoned cotton shirts with the occasional hat. The younger generations linger on the streets. The girls dress in short denim pants and tank tops, the boys in jeans and t-shirts.
The street hums with noise. You walk on, turn a corner and come across a grocery store. You peer through the window and notice all the shelves are bare. You continue on, turn another corner and find yourself facing a row of freshly painted multi-coloured buildings housing tourist shops. Number plates and artwork adorn the walls, whilst pushy shopkeepers are desperate to show you the stock. The shops are full of revolutionist memorabilia from Che Guevara t-shirts and canvas hats to the latest opinion on political theory from Fidel Castro. As you take it in, your mind wanders back to the looming images of Che Guevara and Castro that beam down on you from Revolution Square as you enter the city. A smile crosses your face. This is a nation with a unique revolutionary past and its evident everywhere.
You turn another corner and a large square opens out. A church sits on one side of the square opposite a restaurant alive with throngs of tourists eagerly gorging on fresh lobster and Havana rum. Music dances around the square. The lively tempo of a Cuban band bursts out from the restaurant across the street. It draws you closer. A five-piece band comes into view. Four gentleman play the guitar, an organ and some castanets while a lady with a powerful voice sings. It’s a catchy melody. People start to take to the street and dance. You stand a while and watch the scene. Before long someone grabs you and drags you in.
The song ends and you walk off to find something to eat. After dinner you weave your way through the unlit streets back to your casa. The family you are staying with is up, clustered around a big square TV encased in a wooden box on legs. After a brief conversation in Spanish you go into your room and open the doors onto your balcony. You stand in the hot evening air watching the street below. There are no lights on the street, just the odd ray that comes from a TV set inside someone’s home. People wander back and forth. Cycle rickshaw drivers pull up for the night and sprawl themselves across the back of their rickshaws to go to sleep. The city is still intoxicating by night. You step back into your room, pull the doors and shutters closed and climb into bed. It’s time to sleep so you can see it all again tomorrow.