A Favorite Havana Beach and its New Visitors

Irina Pino

The Playita de 16 coastal beach in Miramar, Havana

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.

The garbage strewn at the Playita de 16 beach.

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.

7 thoughts on “A Favorite Havana Beach and its New Visitors

  • Are you suggesting making another communist revolution in Cuba and redistribute the wealth one more time? Stealing is a stealing. That Cuban bartender makes more in a single day than a Cuban neurosurgeon. Do I have to pity him making with the tips about 1000 CUC per month in Cuba? He can easily open a private bar in Cuba or even immigrate and open a restaurant in Miami instead of stealing. There are western companies paying less than $300 for child labor in Asia and earning more than $10000 profit per child. Would I be justified going to a mall in the US and stealing some clothing or shoes produced by these companies?

  • Vitor. Just imagine that you are a young Cuban. You fall in love, along with your partner you have a couple of children. Mom has to stay at home for a couple of years before the children go to nursery school. The TOTAL family income for four human beings is $20 per MONTH. The father earns that by working for the town doing repairs here and there on the roads and sidewalks. In doing this he makes small batches of concrete using cement. If he reduces the strength of the mix he can filtch a couple of bags of cement per month and sell them for a few extra dollars. Eventually he has accumulated enough money to buy a used bicycle, he makes a little wooden seat on the crossbar for one child and his wife sits on the pannier carrying the second child. Luxury indeed for a Cuban family.
    So you, living in a free democratic civilised society deem him a thief! What about a regime that takes $9,000 per year from overseas companies operating in Cuba for each worker they supply and whom they then pay $300 per year – making a net return for he regime of $8,700 per year. PLEASE give your opinion on that!
    You obviously do not comprehend the reality that is Cuba under the dictatorship of the Castro family regime. They have “obtained” sufficient to enable RAFIN SA (Raul & Fidel) to pay $709 million for 27% shareholding in ETECSA the telephone monopoly. Who is “stealing”?
    I am certain that amongst my friends in Cuba there must be many of those you criticize from the comfort of your life in the capitalist world

  • Calm down Vitor. You obviously don’t have any friends in Cuba. Initially, I was repulsed at the stealing that nearly every one in Cuba engages in. I learned to accept that because of the Castro regime good people have been pushed to do bad things. Stealing is wrong, even it is from a tyrant like Castro. Cuban workers who steal, however, are really stealing from themselves. They steal so much that Cubans give it a different name. Cubans call it ‘resolving’. Indeed, one of the reasons I comment so frequently here at HT is to resolve my issues regarding my bitterness towards the Castro dictatorship. You may choose to judge me and my bartender buddy who steals. But, until you have had to live the way he is forced to live in Cuba, I suggest you lighten up.

  • So you are a good friend of a thief. Oh, I forgot, you would not consider him a thief as long as he steals from the Cuban government. I wonder if you worked for an American company and used its resources to make a little profit on the side would you consider it a stealing?

  • Para Sra.Irina Pina.Le gustaria ponerse en contacto con Irina Pino.Soy un fotografo de los EE.UU.Me gustaria fotografiar La Habana Circus.Exigir un escritor y una guia.La paga es buena.Email: [email protected]

  • I have a good friend who is a bartender at a bar in Central Havana. When he is at work he buys a bottle of rum for 3 cuc and from that bottle he can sell 6-8 mojitos at 3 cuc for each mojito. He uses the bar’s yerba buena, sugar, club soda and lime to make these mojitos and from the sale of a single bottle’s worth of drinks, he can personally earn up to 20 cuc. That’s almost his monthly salary from the government. He normally sells about 20 mojitos per shift. Of course, he shares his bounty with the waiters and everybody shares with the bar manager. Still, he illicitly earns more from a day’s worth of mojitos than my best friend in Cuba, a neurosurgeon, earns all month from saving lives. This is very wrong and is one of the many reasons Cuba suffers economically.

  • The first four days I ever spent in Cuba were at the Hotel Chateau Mirimar. Whilst there I walked one way to Habana Vieja and on another day along 5th Avenue to the River and then back along 1st Avenue past the Karl Marx Theatre – I recall thinking that brother Groucho would have been pleased at the recognition of his family. But later when visiting “the beach”, an elderly man offered to sell me his catch which was a very substantial lobster. It was really enormous and he got down to 3 CUC, but as I was staying at an hotel I had reluctantly to say no. I did find the aquarium and visited it. Also a very wonderful paladar – my first experience of what Cubans could achieve when allowed to use their talents. It is disturbing that young Cubans are destroying the attractions of the beach. I understand from my wife that maintaining order at school is becoming increasingly difficult and that parents seem to be expecting teachers to fulfill their parental role for them and to act as a social service. Haircuts amongst the young males seem to reflect those who are most trouble with the coconut and gorilla type styles dominating.
    But how are young Cubans to address studies when there is little if any anticipated benefit.
    The man who takes his bicycle affixes a cardboard box to the pannier, goes to the Empresa to buy 25 200 gm loaves, puts them in the box and then cycles around the town shouting out “pan” and selling the loaves for 6 pesos each, earns as much by selling that one boxful in probably not more than one hour, as a teacher
    with a Master’s degree earns by spending 7 hours teaching at school or a Doctor working in one of those crumbling hospitals.

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