The Cubanos have the romance in them. If sidewalks could write, then Malecon would have wonderful stories to tell.

You might have often heard this when talking about Cuba: but this is the truth – arriving in Havana is like stepping back in centuries when life was easier and time seemed to run slower.

The glorious days of the Spanish colonial times have long gone, but Havana definitely still holds a strong character with a unique vibe. Antique classic American cars pass by the seashore, where you can also see the crumbling buildings that have a magnificent and elegant architecture.

Vedado neighbourhood, Havana. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Vedado neighbourhood, Havana. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

During most of my days spent in Havana, I used to drift to the historical boardwalk, El Malecon. All mornings I was impressed by the blend of warm colors coming from the sun, the ocean waves, the cars and the surrounding buildings. I could feel the smell and the splash of the sea, as well as the energy of the crowd when it got busy.

Opposite of Malecon, at sunrise. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Opposite of Malecon, at sunrise. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

What I really like about Malecon is that it really gives you a non-touristic view of Havana. This is the gathering point for the locals, it is like a social scene for the Cubanos.

Here you can mingle with the people and get to learn about their lives, challenges, and dreams. It is the site of romantic couples, sad individuals, happy ones or contemplative.

Early in the morning  were only a few fishermen at work. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Early in the morning were only a few fishermen at work. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Malecon gets crowded at sunset. After a long, hot day, the Cubanos leave their neighborhood and come here to relax, for example, to feel the breeze of the ocean. There are young and old couples walking near the shore. Some of them are holding hands, some are smiling at each other, some are kissing before the end of the day. Probably they don’t have much, or their future doesn’t seem that bright, but they’ve surely still got the romance inside. If sidewalks could talk, than Malecon would have wonderful stories to tell.

Margarita y Yanet, mother and daughter, were my hosts in Havana.  Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Margarita y Yanet, mother and daughter, were my hosts in Havana. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

As the musicians come out and play one can feel the Caribbean vibe. This young energetic man starts to play some drums. Within a minute, an old man takes out his trumpet, followed by his friend who takes out his bottle of rum. Another guy, a guitar player dressed up like Antonio Banderas, joins the others and the party gets started.

The people around get carried away by the tune. So do I. It is the moment when I start to move my hips and accept to dance with a beautiful morena.  I feel this could be my moment. Someone observes my lack of courage and offers me a bit of Havana Rum. I start feeling more comfortable and start to dance a bit awkwardly, on “Candela”, a classic Cuban piece by Buena Vista Social Club.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raRqgKqIM3M

She is moving naturally. Her dancing seems simple and so natural as if her body has been specially shaped for salsa. I am now convinced that only a native Cuban who has started dancing before walking could make this type of moves. A couple of movements are followed by a broad smile at me; it is what I need in order to lose my inhibitions and dance like we have known each other for a lifetime.

I don’t know if the Cubanos gathered around were enjoying themselves while laughing at me; maybe they were looking at a white boy with a strange mixture of Romanian traditional dance and what he was imagining to be the real mambo. I then realized that I didn’t really care; my moves were maybe not right, but I was fully there, heart and soul by my morena, locked in a dance worth a thousand words.

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