By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – Havana is 502 years old, that says a lot about the constructions, those that remain standing and have not lost their splendor, thanks to the restorations carried out by the City Historian’s Office.
Colonial architecture predominates, with influences from the Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Greek and Roman. Art noveu also breathes in the buildings.
Most of the mansions preserve their interior patios, with gardens and fountains, which speak of a time when the peace of these areas was important so that the eyes of the residents and visitors would be ecstatic with the beauty of the plants, and the water would summon the birds to perch and sing their trills.
Everyone likes to stroll through the historic center. However, these days international tourism is weak, and the guides must explain to newcomers that there are closed places, such as the Museum of Los Capitanes Generales. Fortunately, El Templete and Castillo de la Fuerza are open to the public.
On the other hand, some restaurants suffer, due to the few and expensive dishes they can offer, only for those who have a bulging wallet.
Even having a decent coffee is difficult. The other day I went into the La Columnata Egipciana cafe, a very nice place on Mercaderes Street, and they were offering infusions with sweets. There was also ice cream, something unusual. But no coffee.
I often walk the streets of Old Havana and imagine that it is another country, one with less material and spiritual deprivation. Walking its streets and seeing the age of the buildings is like experiencing a kind of dream, where we forget our reality.
I suggest visiting the squares, the churches, taking the walk along Avenida del Puerto, perceiving the great marine expanse, sitting on the boardwalk and touching the water, letting the air and the sun caress your face.
And then, sitting in the Plaza de Armas, it’s the funniest moment. I see the guy who chases foreigners for currency exchange; to the street musicians, the annoying ones, who bother with silly songs, and others who remain stationed and entertain with the best pieces of the Cuban repertoire, the guarachas and the sones. The last ones are less imposing, when the music ends, they just pass the hat.
There are also the characters who sit down next to the visitors to talk to them about the country’s crisis, the portrait of deprivation, so that they take pity on them and give them alms.
There is everything in this vineyard of the Lord, life moves, although if we analyze it well, we realize that the State-centered system is totally rooted in the forces of power, in people who do not fulfill even a small part of their tasks.
What can one do? Well, live, take risks, and keep walking. Don’t stop looking at the wonders of the oldest part of our city.
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