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Havana – @wtjuli

Havana – @wtjuli

‘Half of my heart is in Havana.’

A city trapped in time, Havana captures the imagination like no other. It is located on La Habana bay on the island’s north coast. It is the largest city in the Caribbean region and has one of the great treasuries of historic colonial preserves in the western hemisphere. Faded glamour meets careful colonial-era reconstruction with a backdrop of irresistible color.

Prior to 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power, it was a mecca for tourists from the United States, who were drawn by the city’s many attractions, which included climate and nightlife in addition to history. No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory and – despite 60 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful. How it does it is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the long history of piracy, colonialism and mobster rule. Perhaps it’s the survivalist spirit of a populace scarred by two independence wars, a revolution and a US trade embargo. Or possibly it’s something to do with the indefatigable salsa energy that ricochets off walls and emanates most emphatically from the people. Don’t come here with a list of questions; just bring an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.

In Havana, history is piled up like hoarded treasure in a dusty attic – except these days, thanks to proactive City Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler, the colonial thoroughfares look a little less dusty. Leal Spengler has been nailing Havana’s exhausted infrastructure back together piece by piece for more than 30 years. The results are startling. Walk the streets of Habana Vieja today and you’ll quickly feel a genuine connection with the past in imposing coastal fortifications and intimate, traffic-free plazas stuffed with museums. Equally engrossing are the scattered leftovers from Cuba’s more recent marriages with the USA and the USSR.

It may not be like the scene in Paris or New York quite yet, but Havana’s art culture is one of the city’s biggest surprises. The creativity is nothing new: Cuban artists have been quietly challenging cultural elites since the age of José Nicolás de la Escalera and his depictions of enslaved black people. Today the work of Escalera and others is splendidly displayed in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, while newer, racier crews congregate for electrifying ‘happenings’ at the Fábrica de Arte Cubano or take to the streets with their rollers and brushes in Habana Vieja.

Visiting Havana is something you can do all year long. A warm weather most of the year, with temperatures that range from 68 to 85°F is the perfect incentive to explore the city. You can even plan your trips to Havana to attend events such as the famous Havana Carnival, the International Ballet Festival of Havana and the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema (at the Hotel Nacional), in addition to congresses and symposiums of international reach that take place in the many spaces and venues for conventions and events of Havana.

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About The Author

Rhythm Arya

"You never know how amazing you can be." Editor-in-chief | Traveler | Writer | Artist

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