The Discrete Privilege of Havana’s Santa Maria Beach

Carlos Fraguela

At Santa Maria beach.

HAVANA TIMES — Seeking to take advantage of the warm temperature Cuban waters still retain at this time of year, I set out on a pleasant bus journey, heading for Havana’s east-laying beaches. The trip was memorable for several reasons.

A kind tour guide described the services offered by these buses, which take you to the beach, and back, for five Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). A bus leaves every half hour, from 9 am to 6 pm. The point of departure is Old Havana’s Parque Central.

We arrived at the beautiful beach quickly. There is dune between the road and the shore.

Standing on the sand, there was of course a police officer asking people for their ID, to remind us we are all numbered and under police control, as untrustworthy citizens. They honed in on us, I assume, because of my friend Ariel, an Afro-Cuban who endures both racial discrimination and the taboos surrounding his sexual orientation, on file for an official reprimand issued years ago at some meeting place (for indecent exposure).

Luckily, nature continues to be friendly and granted us a beautiful blue sea, where people of different nationalities mingle and converse as though they were free. There are more foreign tourists than Cubans at beaches this time of year.

An English couple next to us asked us why the police officer asked for our IDs. We offered them a brief explanation and we got ready to dip into the ocean.

Havana tour bus that goes from Old Havana to Santa Maria beach.  Photo:

Near the shore, a group of Cuban musicians performed for a group of tourists who were having a blast dancing on the sand.

The near-warm water made us want to stay submerged for hours. The children were playing, building sand castles and the occasional sail boat gave the tableau a maritime feel. In the distance, we saw people surfing and paragliding.

As for the food, most of the options were too expensive for the average Cuban, who, aware of the situation, prefers to bring something from home to spend the day there without fainting.

On our way back, a Mexican woman on the bus (who was very eager to find out everyone’s nationality) told of her experiences in each of the countries she’s visited and added she was awestruck with Cuba and its beautiful landscapes. She told us that, in Havana, they’ve practically have had to kick her out where she’s stayed at because she never wants to leave behind the pleasant atmosphere one breathes in the country.

12 thoughts on “The Discrete Privilege of Havana’s Santa Maria Beach

  • Tell that to the Kurt Klux Klan.

  • O but in reality arn’t we all realy black decendants of Africans?

  • Haha! Ain’t enough “sol” in the world to make a white boy black.

  • After I’ve gotten a lot of el sol you could call me mulato.

  • Yuma refers to tourists from (first of all) the US.

  • Are you Black? If you are white, I certainly believe that you have never been asked for your ID. I have white Cuban friends in Cuba who have never been stopped by a PNR for ID. But if you look like me, you would have been stopped a lot.

  • I have been to Cuba maybee 50 times or more and have even worked there for 3 years, other than at the airport or a hotel, have never been asked for ID. To my knowledge “yuma” is Cuban reference to a sugar daddy, are you one? . After some time I get back into speaking spanish and I perfect my accent people think I’m Cuban also.

  • I go to Mi Cayito a little futher along. Theres usually a Policeman there, I buy him a drink, can’t be much fun sitting there all day in the sun. Makes me feel better that theres one there. Generally they don’t check ID cards and theres no phone signal there so they can’t do anything to check.

  • The young people,they will not accept what thier grandparents and parents have tolerated for 60 years.they know that there is a better life and they want it,no no no they will demand it…..without fear.

  • My favorite beach is located in front of the Tropicoco Hotel. I think it is called Playa Azul. It is next to the Santa Maria Beach. The only negative is that because I look like a mulatto Cuban, I ALWAYS get asked for my ID. When I am not being asked, I am being watched. But at this point I have fun with it. I just bring a copy of my passport with me and I speak only English when the PNR approach me. They ask me if I have Cuban family? How is it that I understand Spanish? Whatever they can think of to satisfy their doubt that someone can look so Cuban and not have even a little Cuban blood. I have even had Cuban police tell me that they don’t believe me. They think that I left Cuba as a child and therefore I can speak like a “Yuma”. It’s hilarious.

  • The beaches in Cuba are beautiful, white sand with beautiful clear water which should be freely made available to everyone. This is Cuba and belongs to the Cuban people, it is the tourists who should present documentation not the Cuban people. It is time for Mr Castro to set his people free, after all what was the reason for the revolution? To free the Cuban people from despots, so where and when did it all go so wrong?

  • Love Cuba and the beaches at Santa Maria beach area.

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