Getting Acquainted with Havana
Trip Start Sep 27, 2011
9Trip End Oct 05, 2011
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While grand, Havana is indeed crumbling. We learned that upwards of 30 homes collapse each year. Most homes were built in the late 1800s and 1900s, and few have undergone the level of repairs needed to house so many people
Because of the housing shortage, many young adults are forced to live with their parents long past the time when they’d prefer to have their own lodging. That said, hundreds of people hang out on the Malecon every night simply to have some ‘privacy’ and to hang out with friends. A lecture at the hotel focused on the challenges faced by the Cuban family. Similar to the U.S., many Cuban women are working outside the home, which puts stress on the family. Divorce is common but more common is young people making the decision to live together instead of tying the knot. Birthrates are down simply because couples cannot afford to have more than one child. Unlike the U.S., there are virtually no nursing homes for older people. Children are expected to take care of their aging parents. And grandparents are an integral part of the family, expected to care for young children. I observed many doting grandparents shepherding their charges to school both in Cienfuegos and Havana.
Our next visit was to the Sephardic Synagogue in Havana
Between stops, we visited a street dedicated to the religion called Santeria, brought to Cuba by slaves of West African and Caribbean descent. A guide gave a brief talk about its origins and practices that culminated in a Rumba band playing well into the afternoon. The street was awash in color and packed with local Cubans and curious tourists. Once the Rumba band took the ‘stage,’ the energy was contagious. Everyone from small children to grandmas sang alone and moved to the infectious rhythm.
We also visited Ernest Hemingway’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Havana. His office is still intact, as is the typewriter that he wrote a few of his famous works on.
We ended the day with a brief visit to the Rosenberg Memorial and dinner at the historic El Morro Castle. A great first day in Havana!