For someone who has enjoyed long stays in Havana, my recent week-long visit this September was short but sweet, and only enough to wet my appetite.
Although there will never been enough time to spend in this spectacular city, I managed to go dancing every day, catch-up with old friends, take a few dance classes with my favourite teachers, see five concerts, and visit some new and exciting places. Havana, you never cease to amaze me.
Oddly, I have no photographs of where I spent most of my time. I did mange to capture a few interesting spots and events: a very beautiful boxing gym (Rafael Trejo) where the manager was training his team for an upcoming competition, my friends working out at Ojo de Cyclone, using perhaps the most beautiful 'universal' I've ever seen (good job Leo); and, on my last day, I captured kids playing in the street in recognition of CDR Day (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), a national holiday.
CDRs were created to promote social welfare and report on 'anti-revolutionary' activities, although on September 27th, this has evolved into a celebration, where all around the city, neighbourhood streets are closed to traffic, children play, adults drink and chat, and large pots of caldoza (stew) are made and shared.
And while it seems that outside of Cuba, the country is on the verge of great and rapid change, the sentiment among those I spoke to in Havana, is that change is very slow and has a long ways to go. The most sizeable difference I found, was significantly greater access to the internet.
Wi-fi cards had decreased in price by up to 200% if purchased in the street, although hotels still sold them at a premium. Not only had prices gone down, but coverage also increased. Previously internet was only available in hotels, etecsa buildings and in select homes, but now wi-fi was found in a number of outdoor parks and squares.
Wi-fi parks that were previously busy with people playing chess, arguing about baseball, or just hanging out, were now full of Cubans camped out by the dozens with laptops, headsets, tablets and phones surfing the web and in some cases chatting online with friends and family abroad. Those who couldn't find a spot at the park sat lined-up on the curb across the street, where they could still receive reception, and even had better lighting after dark. Wi-fi parks did'n't close, so even late into the night, they remained busy. A reggaeton singer I met, told me that his latest song was called 'everyone is connected'. After walking by this square, I couldn't help but agree.
If you are interested in joining us for our week long dance holiday in Havana this February 2016, we still have space! Check the Bailando Cuba event page for more info.