Cuba is an amazing place! History is visibly alive in every day life, what with American (U.S.) and Russian cars from the 1950s, and limited access to things we might take for granted. Most of the buildings are old and even though their facade may be worn down, you can tell they are sturdy and built to last!
The people we talked to were welcoming and happy to share what they knew about events around the city. We learned of a few musical gatherings & were just in time to go to one. Los Rumberos de Cuba were playing sweet, sweet music while the crowd got on the dance floor for some rumba guaguanco. What happens is there are movements that go along with the rhythm, and the man…being like a rooster, tries to…well, peck at the woman (who would be the hen.) When the woman sees the man reaching for her, she scoots herself away from the hips, making it impossible for him to peck at her; so to speak. Eventually she might let him get close to her, but it is all done in a beautiful, respectful, fun & flirty way. Click here to see Rumba Guaguanco
Being from Tanzania and Italy, I couldn’t help but compare life in Cuba to where I have lived. Much like Italy in the 90s and Tanzania up until 2010 or so, internet is sparse in Cuba (internet is still not vastly available in Tanzania, but it is definitely much more accessible than it is in Cuba.) We mostly stayed in Old Havana, and learned where the best WiFi cafe was. We’d go, get some food and a cafeito, and gain access to WiFi. It was nice to be unplugged, yet I know it is difficult sometimes when you need internet but can’t get access to it until you go somewhere to use it. There have been plenty of times when I took the bus and walked a while, to get to an internet café in Tanzania. LOL Another resemblance of culture was the drinking of espresso and coffee. Caffé in Italia and kahawa in Tanzania.
The main reason for our trip to Cuba, was to better understand the connection of Afro-Cuban music with music from Central & East Africa; especially to drumming traditions like that of the famed artist Bi Kidude. We had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Don Maximino of Los Rumberos de Cuba, who gave Don Laurin a few lessons at his home.
Along with music, Havana had a lot of art to be seen. Well, music was everywhere, with people easily dancing anywhere. This reminds me, a lot of the women walk differently in Havana, giving off a vibe of self-confidence. As someone who was a tomboy and grew up to walk pretty straight up & down, it is something I really appreciated and it made me feel more confident, too.
While we were in Havana, there happened to be a major parade on El Malecón; the wide road by the sea wall. We walked there from the Casa Real we stayed in (I highly recommend using these if you want to save some money on lodging), and made it to the parade. It was full of people, music, costumes, floats, and delicious-smelling foods. The night was gorgeous and I felt so happy to be there; given that music was one of our main reasons for being in Cuba. Oh, did I mention there was also a full moon?
I could write about this trip for a while, but I think this is a good place to pause. We will add more posts about Cuba, so please do stay tuned.
Thanks for stopping by.
(Photography credits: Sophia Neghesti-Johnson)