Havana’s Bacuranao: “The People’s Beach”
Fotorreportaje por Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES — On Sunday, April 19, the last day of school break and Cuba’s municipal elections, faced with a veritable shortage of inexpensive options and the scorching heat, many chose to go for a dip and shake off the day’s 35 degrees Celsius at Havana’s beach for the humble: Bacuranao. Popularly known as “Basuranao” because of the waste products one comes across on the sand or floating on the water, it is the beach beyond the Havana Bay tunnel closest to the city.
Currently, what we hear most about the beach are tragic stories involving people from the neighborhoods of Alamar, San Miguel del Padron, Regla and Guanabacoa who make a habit of visiting the place – people of humble means with a reputation for violence. Many are the tales of brawls, robberies and aggressiveness set in Bacuranao. Most of the time, we help spread the myth without verifying the veracity of these stories.
I know that there’s always a grain of truth to all myths. On that Sunday, I went to the “people’s beach” (as a friend of mine christened the place) and found a huge crowd, bottles of rum strewn everywhere and the smell of alcohol in the air. I confess I could not help but bring to mind those violent stories that have been going around for years.
Ten minutes after arriving, surrounded by tough looking kids who made aggressive gestures when they spoke, I began to fear someone would come and snatch my camera from me. I soon managed to relax, however. I wasn’t alone and, what’s more, the teenagers were laughing, chatting or playing in different groups – they weren’t paying me much attention. I was just another beach-goer, a little strange true, for no one likes to be bothered by an indiscrete lens, but I wasn’t that bothersome to them.
A section of the pedestrian walk that leads to the beach has collapsed and a large sheet of iron was blocking the way – but that doesn’t stop anyone. Most people don’t want to head out to the freeway and find a way to get past the barrier. There’s also a red flag at the river, indicating it is a danger zone (owing to contamination), but that doesn’t keep people from bathing there.
Here are some photos I took. The beach umbrellas, towels and improvised roofs give the beach a touch of color and creativity while shielding bathers from the sun.
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5 thoughts on “Havana’s Bacuranao: “The People’s Beach””
Lost your pen Dan? Or is my response disappointing for you?
Dan you have made statements and asked questions, so here are some rebuttals and answers. My late father was the Head of Station for SIS (MI6) in Austria. He entered Vienna in May 1945. Under his cover as a diplomat he had 147 meetings with the Russians who never knew of his abilities in their language – as he explained, while the interpreter is doing their job, you can think about what they said, it provides critical thinking time. In his SIS role he held responsibility for the British agents in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania and points east. Some paid for their work with their lives. At the end of the 147 meetings, Austria had its freedom as a neutral country. It was the only territory from which the Soviet Empire withdrew in its history and they learned from their mistake and did not repeat it in Germany. My father always maintained that the Soviet Empire had to be contained and would eventually rot from within. A pretty accurate forecast. He died in 1997 having to his great satisfaction seen the Eastern European countries regain their freedom.
I first worked on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland when I was 16 years of age – and was paid the princely sum of three pounds, fourteen shillings and sixpence per fortnight (two weeks) plus my keep for a 47 hour week. Following from my period as a student and two years military service when I was commissioned in the Corps of Royal Military Police and served in Germany when we were still occupying forces I worked in agriculture in the UK for 25 years prior to emigrating to Canada where I managed agricultural organizations, eventually becoming an independent consultant.
As my father was away from home from the start of the Second World War, I too was brought up by my mother. That was difficult with rationing of food, clothing and coal for heating. During the war it was understandable but under the post war labour government rationing became more severe until Churchill was re-elected in 1951 and rationing ceased within one week.
Regarding the beach, the nearest one where my wife and I have spent a week is Guanabo. While there we took a ride one wet day to Santa Maria to see how the tourists lived. To get a beer and a little lunch we entered the Hotel Tropicoco where we went at 12.30 to the bar and sat down at a table. Within two minutes, security appeared and we were ejected because my wife is a Cuban.
I have to admit that you have a fair point is saying that by living in Cuba I am no different from you living in the US. You obviously are frustrated by US politics and I can understand that. But in my view US residents have many privileges which Cubans can currently under the Castro family communist regime only dream of. I have I hope always made it clear that I have a great love of the country of Cuba and deep admiration for its people. Being married to a Cuban our home is there as are her family and her culture. I would never dream of asking her to abandon that.
I hope Dan that you will accept this as an honest and full response to the points you raised. I for my part will continue when able o during my times in Canada to criticize and comment upon Cuba and the nauseating Castro family regime. I experience it for the larger part of each year and am I think in consequence qualified to express my view. I respect your right to differ – but I am a believer in the freedom of the individual, not Socialismo!
Carlyle, I was raised by my Mom, who was an in home care nurse. Your papa worked in the diplomatic core. How many years did you spend working on a farm or in factories ? I’ve been to this beach, probably unlike you. I wonder why you continue to travel to Cuba if you think it’s so terrible. I’ve been told by the Self Appointed Spokesman for the People of Cuba, like yourself and the others on this board to leave the US if I didn’t agree with things here.
Thanks for he photographs. As they show the reality of Cuba, people like Mr. John Goodrich, Analyser and Dan who write to Havana Times will ignore your endeavors. They are socialist adherents living in comfort in the USA. They think that Varadero is the beach having spent their lives in privilege.
Rather than “people’s” I guess this clasiffies as the “populace’s beach”…
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