If you were to do only one thing while visiting Havana you have to go to the Malecon at dusk, the city’s sea drive, and watch the sunset over the ocean and the city skyline. At this time the Malecon boulevard transforms and comes to life; couples go walking, groups of friends talk and watch the waves together, and street performers play all along the thoroughfare as the dusk sets. Thanks to centuries of cross-cultural fermentation Malecon and Cuba’s capital is a round the clock jam session of staggering diversity: from Rumba to jazz and hip hop – it’s all resonating here. Cuba may have endured shortages and sacrifices over the past decades, but the arts – music in particular – have prospered. Creativity is particularly strong in Havana, where faded grandeur and animated street life is starting to rediscover its entrepreneurial spirit.
While venturing through the streets of Havana I spoke to many Cubans content of changes and hopeful for the future. Although still underdeveloped in many areas the island slowly embraces the future and globalization and the new generation of Cubans is entirely immersed in Western culture, its music, clothing, aspirations. Yet the visible presence of revolution, Che and Fidel remains integral part of Cuban daily life.
Cuba went through a lot of changes since my last visit here 10 years ago. The US administration under Barack Obama normalized relationship with the island and re-established its Embassy at the Malecon in Havana. The sanctions were eased and hundred thousands of Americans were allowed to visit Cuba. At the same time Raul Castro, who took over power from his brother Fidel, introduced number of reforms that aimed at strengthening Cuban economy and its main backbone – tourism. Over the last decade the country has changed, with brand new western hotels of European or Latin American brands, numerous restaurants in Old Havana, wide accessibility to Chinese smart phone and access to internet (still limited though). Yet despite all those changes one can still experience the famous rustic old Havana with its iconic pre-revolution cars, crumbling colonial architecture and ever present scent of Cuban cigars.