Havana for Careful Readers

Surrounded by punchy bright flowers, relaxing, windows thrown wide. The breeze and verdant hour and laughter of passersby intoxicate. Inventing parties, creating drama, swapping art and clothes and women, maintaining levity despite – and because of – life’s hardships: this is Havana. The unhinged enthusiasm dominoes, flirting, a robust buffet, and pelota (especially if it’s Industriales vs Matanzas like tonight) can occasion: this too, is Havana.

Barking dogs, erecting walls, crumbling sidewalks and streets, buildings, families and lives. Coin flipped: tinted cars, exclusive bars, fridge full and belly contento. Friends forever leaving, returning as visitors of a sort to eat congris, drink lager, dar cuero. Dancing. Laughing. Taking your vieja to the polyclinic and chama to Jalisco Park. Loading up carts to overflowing at El Palco or 70 y Tercera, getting right with the padrino, paying respects at Cementerio Colón. Public peeing and masturbation, gay play along the dark bastions of the Castillo de Principe, working girls working the boulevards of Miramar and the back alleys of Cayo Hueso. Going for the daily bread.

Genius composers, a farce of artists (but reams of the real deal, too), honest, sensitive young men breaking the mold and stereotype, moms working themselves ragged cleaning, cooking, shopping, caretaking and running ministries. Dads pregnant with beer bellies out on the town, suelto sin vacunar. Know-it-all and equally annoying clueless tourists who don’t study up enough beforehand resolve life for some, earning gratitude, fomenting envidia.

All of this is Havana. Come see for yourself.



Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban economy, Cuban idiosyncracies, Cuban phrases, Cuban Revolution, Expat life, Living Abroad, Travel to Cuba

16 responses to “Havana for Careful Readers

  1. renald laurin

    Ah, Conner! Directo al corazon! Just when I am trying to refrain from bookin another trip to Cuba in December ( I just came back from my 50th-ish trip 3 weeks ago…), your post comes in, in an already dark 6PM Montreal, all leaves gone, winter coming. So, this present message has to let you know how I appreciate your writing, and also serves as a “Buenas, como andan las cosas?” salutation before I have the pleasure to meet you in person soon.

    renaldo de montreal

    • The weather’s beautiful; come on down!! Thanks for the virtual appreciation. It makes a difference! Cheers

      • Yuman

        I recently discovered your blog and the timing is great because for the first time in almost 20 time in Cuba, I ll be going “no inclusivo” in Havana vieja in mid january.

        I ve been reading many blogs like HavanaTimes and your “non native, greyish” point of view strikes a chord because the more I dare go inland and meet the locals, the more I find I know nothing about Cuba.

        estoy aprendiendo espanol poco a poco y me gustaria apprender mas mas mas acerca de la realidad en Cuba.

        I will definately visit you guys at Cuba Libro for an in person greeting! Un fortunately, I do not own an iPhone so I can t use your application. Maybe I could help building an android version of it so to expand your clientele 🙂

        In the mean time, thanks for your amazing blog and hope to meet all of you very soon!
        A Bientot! 🙂
        PS: sorry for my anglish and spanish, I m still learning.

  2. steve

    There’s a beauty there, and it outshines all the ugliness. There is a dignity there, and it overpowers the indignities.

  3. Nigel Toft

    so beautifully written ..!! Makes me miss Havana so much !

    • Gracias Nigel. Havana is like a fickle lover who drives you crazy but who you cant forget (and almost always want more – even when its bad for your health!). Im writing lots lately; hopefully it helps you and other readers miss La Habana less. Thanks for reading!

  4. maudiaz

    La Habana is a fascinating bug that once it bites you controls your mind and makes you always want to come back for more.

    It is a place with more smiles per square meter than anywhere else in the world… Despite the fact there are many reasons for those smiles to not even be able to thrive in those conditions.

    But the sounds, the scents (and the smells), the visual overload, the touch of Cuban@s, the taste of homemade congrí… it’s all intoxicating and irresistible.

    I’d heard about the Habana bug since my childhood and once y I was able to finally visit and “catch” the disease… I haven’t recovered and I may have this condition until the day I die.

    As that old song says: “if this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

  5. Rose Ana

    Muy poetica! I think you’re ready for the “slam”…

  6. I must admit that I enjoyed this. As my nom de plume inidcates I was born and bred there. Lived there for more than a quarter of a century, so obviously the rivalry between Industriales (my home team and lifelong passion I decribed in a post this week http://cubaninlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/pieces-of-me-pieces-of-havana.html ) and Matanzas, but especially Santiago, is familiar. I went back last year and sadly every time I go it’s the same scene playing on a loop. Fewer of my friends remain. Most have left to other climates – often coldrer – and those who have stayed behind want out regardless of the methods they have to resort to in order to make their dreams come true.

    Good writing. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  7. Antonio

    Conner, while you are writing on the things that make Cuba unique, I am hoping you will write more about something you briefly mentioned before, Cubanas and their preference for men’s cologne. You mentioned it, and it has happened to me and a buddy of mine. Thanks!

    • Hola. Chances are super slim Ill be writing about this in the future for a couple of reasons: too many other things to write about and I suspect that its not necessarily a preference, but that we’ll use whatever works here, regardless of to whom its marketed (in this case: scents for men)

  8. Caney

    Lol! I know too many Cuban men who would put ANY perfume on, regardless of the sex the brand says is made for…

  9. John corbett

    Thank you for taking me back the most wonderful time of my life . I’m there

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