10 May - Havana Main Course
On Thursday, we enlisted Rafia as a guide and returned to the city centre to ‘do the sights’. The weather was threatening, so we took refuge in the Museo de la Revolucion, where we spent a fascinating couple of hours learning about the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and the extraordinary story of the 1959 revolution. I could write pages on this: a great story about small bands of determined men, hearts and minds, the inflexibility of a corrupt government, a movement whose time had come, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and vice versa, a US Government and CIA unsure how to influence things and making strangely contradictory gestures in an attempt to get things right… and Castro, a man of the people who led from the front and has inspired several generations of Cubans into embracing his view of how things should be. Now I understand why Che Guevara is such an iconic figure and I want to know more.
A square in Old Havana. The shop on the left provides food in exchange for Ration Cards
A job interview?
The rain came in a torrent and nearly washed us away. We swam into the ‘Feria’ down near the waterfront and spent an hour browsing through hundreds of pieces of original, contemporary art: mostly depictions of 1950s American cars against a backdrop of Old Havana, strangely disturbing pictures of voluptuous Afro-Cuban women smoking massive cigars, or psychedelic interpretations of the classic Che Guevara photographs that you see in every student’s room across the world. The rains lashed down all day, so rather than venture ashore in the evening, we enjoyed a home-cooked curry at ‘Casa Shafi’ and solved the problems of the modern world… except that I can’t quite remember the details!
Watching the washing
On Friday we were joined for another classic Pakistani breakfast by Menno Valkenburg, the husband of the Dutch ambassador to Cuba, who is a keen yachtsman. Whilst Micky and Rafia had work to do, Menno took us back to Escapade for a quick turnaround, before our generous hosts arrived to take us west to the town of Viñales for the weekend.
Cuban artistic endeavour enhances even the most dilapidated parts of Old Havana
Central Havana – impressive, despite the ridiculous camera settings