By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – Far from the madding crowd, the Bosque de Havana (Havana Forest) is one of the city’s most enchanting places.
Some people think of it as a tropical forest set within the city. You can get there from El Vedado, and it is also near the Playa Municipality.
Its exuberant vegetation, fauna and flora, invites visitors to enjoy a place of unrivaled beauty. Different species live together in harmony. There are plenty of jagueyes, laurels and carob trees.
Eyes admire the idyllic surroundings, vines hang from trees, like green lace. Some parts are completely silent; sometimes you can hear birds singing.
The Almendares River calmly winds through Havana’s Bosque and the neighboring Almendares Park, which is also called Parque Metropolitano; both of these spaces cover 700 hectares of land.
In the 19th century, it’s old owner, Juana Gabriela Embil de Quesada, baptized it: Isla Josefina. There are still arches, bridges and staircases from that time, which possibly formed part of the old manor house.
Cuba’s TV production company regularly uses this location for shooting. Here, swashbuckling stories are filmed for Las Aventuras, for children and young people; an extremely popular show that no longer exists unfortunately, or because nobody is interested anymore.
It was where TV adaptations of The Woman in White and Roses a credit, by Wilkie Collins and Elsa Triolet, were shot.
The day I was filming, it was really busy as it was a Saturday. While I was shooting, intruders interrupted the space, violating the peace that reigns here. Groups of people went to the river to perform religious rituals and make the riverbed dirty; 15-year-old girls were posing dressed up as cheap nymphs, covered in fake precious stones and glitter.
There were also newly-weds taking ridiculous photos. The girls made you want to laugh, trying hard not to get their white dresses dirty…
None of these visitors seemed to appreciate this landscape, they were blind to its serene trees, they ignored its creatures, they didn’t see the forest come to life.
The river’s water suffer from pollution because of garbage, the Yoruba religious offerings, and other everyday evils.
Something worse lies in wait: a restaurant/grill is being built next to the ruins. The idea is to draw more people here to eat and drink. Anything but observe.
Contemplation will be replaced by business. Will it stop being Havana’s Bosque?
It began to rain in the late afternoon, the downpour scared everybody off. The rain restored the forest’s solitude.
I always think of this forest as a landscape full of mystery, that could share something with Edgar Allen Poe’s The Island of the Fay.