Heat wave takes over Guantanamo

Rosa Martinez

The Yumuri cañon, Guantánamo. Photo: Lazaro Gonzalez

HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago, Europe experienced its first heat wave of the year. Winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean, along with atmospheric stability and an intense period of sunshine meant that thermometers reached approximately 40 degrees Celsius, forcing people in several countries to take measures.

Cuba is quite far-removed from the European continent, but it doesn’t escape these high temperatures, on the contrary, we Caribbeans deal with them all year round, but it is clearly during June, July and August when we suffer them the most.

Yesterday, it seems that there had been an unexpected rise, because while I was traveling in a bus to the center of Guantanamo city, several events took place which proved this.

It was just about 7 AM when I walked to the bus stop and the sun was already burning bodies; many people, especially women, were protecting themselves from the sun with parasols and sunglasses, but their light clothing seemed to do nothing.

People crowded like ants, fleeing from the ultraviolet rays; although in the morning and in the shade, sweat beads were running down the bodies of nearly everyone there.

When the first bus arrived, the chaos ensued. Between shoving, shouting and exasperation, I managed to climb onto the vehicle, but I couldn’t escape a heated discussion between a woman with a child in her arms and another woman who didn’t want to give up her seat, but offered to hold the baby instead.

That’s when people’s opinions divided, a group of people defended the mother’s right to sit down and another person called her well-to-do because she didn’t want the other woman to carry her baby, who was the one who really needed to be comfortable.

The heat wreaked havoc. Several women got out their fans to try and soften the desperation that their own and other people’s sweat caused them, their bodies one on top of the other, somebody else’s breath on your nose…

Two stops on, another quarrel took place, a couple of young people were arguing with an extremely well-built man who was standing in the middle of the rear exit, and was blocking the way with his huge body so that they couldn’t get off. The argument went on a while, and they were close to ending up in blows.

The driver took off again. Thank God, some people said. When peace seemed to have finally settled in that bus, a final incident took place with a 70-something year old woman, who was dressed very young, who kicked up a fuss with a young man who asked her if she didn’t realize she was too old to be pushing and shoving others.

The woman shouted that the old woman must be his mother and a string of other insults. That last fight made lots of people laugh and people’s moods were dampened, but me, in the corner, I only thought about how if the temperature had risen by two more degrees, there would have been someone injured on that bus, I just hoped that it wouldn’t be me…

10 thoughts on “Heat wave takes over Guantanamo

  • I agree with you emagicmtman that age is a very probable factor in getting dehydrated. Having walked in many countries, some of which were fairly hot and in one instance added to by volcanic activity, I used to be pretty heat tolerant, but that has undoubtedly diminished. When walking daily in Cuba, I am careful about the timing during that July-early October period. Have you noticed that although the Banks have air conditioning, they make their clients wait outside in the heat and humidity until permitted to enter by ‘security’. Not possible under capitalism!

  • Age might be a factor, too. When I was 16, during my very first stay in Cuba, way back in June through August of 1959, I didn’t seem to mind the heat; now it is much harder. During a two-month trip in Sept. and Oct. of 2012, I remarked to a waiter in Santiago (noting that his restaurant was almost empty, save for myself and a couple–a young Cuban chica and her much older Italian “companion”–that the heat must have something to do with the lack of clientele. His establishment had an outstanding review in the LONELY PLANET guide. The waiter replied that, on the contrary, the place had been hopping during July and August, when many young French and German tourists were vacationing. As the lyrics of several Cuban songs reveal, Santiago is hot–in more ways than one!

  • The difference between humidity levels in western North America and eastern North America is astonishing. A considerable period of acclimatization is necessary. For people in Alberta and Montana with 15% humidity, a visit to Toronto or Madison can be exhausting. I recall back in July, 1976, the operating theaters in Toronto having to close down because water was running down the walls. On the other hand good antique furniture taken from east to west, will crack due to the dry climate.
    In Cuba it is humidity that is high rather than temperature.

  • I’ve been to New Orleans in the summer time, which I think has similar weather to Cuba. It was HOT and Humid as hell, couldn’t stay hydrated no matter how much water intake we tried. But that was a business trip and we had to stay out in the open air & under the hot sun.

    Recently in Los Angeles, we have been having a heat wave (I’m sure not as hot as Cuba) but I’ve been shutting the down the AC in an attempt to get used to being out and about in the heat so I can prep myself for Cuba at least a little, but this has been taking it’s toll.

    But I’m not losing hope and will try a summer in Havana (and hopefully several other cities).

    Thank you for the info.

  • Even in September and October it can be dreadful for those not use to hazy, hot and humid weather. In early September, 2015, when my friend and I arrived from the Varadero airport to our casa particular in Matanzas City , it was dreadfully hot (mid 30’s C.) and, after a few days of wandering around in such heat I suggested we cool off by visiting the nearby Belmar Caves, since, as everyone knows, it is always cooler in caves than on the surface. Unfortunately, this proved not to be the case. For the first hour of descending to ever lower levels of the cave it still felt like we were in a hot box. And in caves, whatever goes down must eventually come up. The last hour of climbing up was the real killer. By the time we reached the surface we were in a semi-delirium. Fortunately, a nearby outdoor bar provided replenishment of what we had sweated off by means of several cans of Bucanero. Still, the uncomfortable weather did not break to bearable ’til mid-October (when we enjoyed several venues during the week-long Havana Mozart Festival.

  • Thank you, I will check out those websites. I have been to Cuba several times, just not in the summer time. I have visited several cities from Pinar Del Rio to Santa Clara, and made it down to Trinidad a couple of times.

    I have always heard horror stories about the summer heat in Cube, but have yet to experience it. I have never made it east of Villa Clara, and i am anxiously waiting to go back and visit some of the eastern provinces. I have always enjoyed discovering new places even in towns that I have visited.

    So little time and so many places yet to discover, I always value the advice, thanks again.

  • I don’t live on either side of Cuba Ronin, but in the middle. Hence we have no beach and no tourists just the reality of Cuba. I like others who know Cuba, would recommend that you take time in planning your trip. There are two alternatives. The first is to take a package tour with the four inclusive ‘B’s’ of Bed, Beach, Buffet and Booze.
    The second which I would recommend, is to go to the web site cubaparticular.com where you will find casa particulars in every town in Cuba, complete with details and prices. When you have decided your route, you can book on line with no deposit and e-mailed confirmation. You pay the host/hostess directly after your arrival. Prices vary according to location and are for the room – usually one double and one single bed. In Havana expect to pay 35 CUC per night. In other locations 25 CUC. Travel around Cuba by using the Viazul coach service. Air-conditioned Chinese coaches (Yutong). You can find the timetables on the web at Viazul.com
    The two leading attractions are probably Trinidad de Cuba and Vinales. But there are lots of excellent alternatives.
    You will reap rewards if you plan early. Of the guide books, ‘Lonely Planet’ is about the best. Buy it now to stimulate your appetite!
    You may have noted that bjmack upon reading that we have a good toilet seat which I imported in one of my cases, asked if he could use it when in Cuba. That bit of humour does reveal one of the problems – always carry a pack of paper hankies!
    Enjoy Cuba when you get there, it is a beautiful country with wonderful national parks if you are a walker, and the people are gregarious – but in Havana be careful with helpful young men ‘jinteros’. The core of Cuban society is ‘La familia’ and the soul of Cuba is its music.

  • Thank you for the info. Which side of the Island do you live in? Hopefully I can make it down by summer of 2018. Due to couple of back to back surgeries scheduled during this summer, I will not be able to make it this year.

  • One of the extraordinary statistics in Cuba is a maximum recorded temperature of only about 38C. But where we live, in July, August September the early mornings are pleasant and the temperature climbs steadily upwards to between 32 and 34C. The humidity increases with the temperature and by about 1.00 p.m. it starts to cloud over. At about 2.30 p.m. there is a crack of thunder with much lightening and down comes the tropical rain. The streets run with water (added to the leaks). Usually after some 40 minutes, the rain ceases, the sun comes out again and by 4.00 p.m. it is pleasant. I should add that we do not live at the coast.

  • I’ve been to Cuba many times, but never during June, July, or August. I am very anxious to try Cuba during these months, jut to see what all the hoopla is all about. I know it will not be comfortable, but the experience will be unique I’m sure. 🙂

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