HAVANA TIMES — Years ago, the small 16th Street beach in Miramar, Havana, was a very popular spot. People, particularly the very young, travelled far to go swimming there and enjoy its peaceful atmostphere.
It was a place where beauty and youth met. People sunbathed, talked, laughed. To say “let’s head down to 16th St. beach” was an invitation to ward off boredom. One not only enjoyed the water and relaxing breezes, but had a good time conversing and joking with people.
Generally speaking, there were never any brawls there, much less any kind of anti-social behavior.
Today, this once quiet and harmonious place has become a sad spectacle where being loud and obnoxious is a form of recreation. Those who frequent it speak a language made up of swear words and make a habit of drinking and leaving garbage strewn around everywhere – a practice that damages the environment and is ignored by everyone.
Music blares at a nearby cafeteria, perhaps to deafen those who sit there to eat something. There’s also a karaoke machine, where only the drunkest of the lot dare to sing and dance. Nearly all of the waiters are rude and look at you as though you owed them something. The prices there are also much higher than at other places.
They’ve set up inflatable games where children can jump and release their energies. You see food stands and small restaurants offering snacks and beverages (some of them warm) everywhere.
The place draws the largest crowds on weekends. You see motorcycles, old and modern cars, parked around the beach. People on bicycles ride down the sidewalks selling peanuts, pop-corn and sweets. Loud teenagers listen to and sing reggaeton numbers, while girls make grotesque dance movements and the children wail and run around.
In short, it’s like a big madhouse facing the sea.
The coast still has its jagged rocks and sharp corals, breaking people’s footwear and digging into the feet of anyone who dares climb down the rocky surf to dip into the water.
The beach begins to empty as the sun goes down.
It is a changing landscape. Or perhaps the people are the ones changing it. One has no other choice but to remember how it was before.