Malecon – Havana


Malecon – Havana, Cuba

Roughly translated, Malecon means seawall. And in Habana, or Havana, it stretches for a little over 4 miles, providing a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history, culture, architecture and the indomitable spirit of its people. The blue waters of the Caribbean are a wonderful backdrop to the architectural gems that line the route.

Habana is a vibrant place that’s full of contradictions and a walk along the Malecon allows you wonderful insights and should definitely be a part of your holiday travel in Cuba. 50 years of communism have led to a ruined economy but have also led to tremendous innovation from a people grappling with economic hardships. Art, music and dance have flourished and remained distinctive because of Cuba’s relative isolation from the rest of the world.

As you stroll along the Malecon, which is also a kind of social hub for the Habaneros (residents of Habana), you will feel the pulse of the city. There’s always something happening here, by day and by night. You will see children jumping into the sea, people fishing, lovers kissing, musicians playing and tourists taking pictures. People watching can easily keep you engrossed for a long time. In the winter months, very high sea waves crash along the seawall, drenching pedestrians and providing entertainment for children who duck and play with the fury of the waves.

It’s also an incredible sight to see Cadillacs, Russian Ladas and other cars from the 1940s and 50s still gliding, or occasionally sputtering, down the wide avenue. Camel buses and Coco taxis are the other forms of transport. If you are not up to walking the 4-mile stretch, flag down a horse carriage and enjoy a leisurely ride along the Malecon.

There are three main sections that you will pass as you make your way along the Malecon. At the entrance of the bay of Havana in the east, is the Vieja Habana where many colonial buildings have been beautifully restored. Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta and the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro are the main sights along the Vieja Habana section of the Malecon. As you head west, you will pass Centro Habana where the crumbling facades of pastel-hued neoclassical and neo-Moorish buildings and apartments present an intriguing picture of the city’s, and also Cuba’s, past glory and current economic woes. At sunset, the buildings look particularly beautiful, so if possible arrive here to watch the play of light as the sun goes down. In the northwest and beyond Centro Habana is the relatively modern-looking Vedado with high rises, a lot of them Russian inspired. Vedado is where you will find a lot of nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries and it is considered to be the trendier suburb.

Sitting on the seawall and gazing at the fading grandeur of Havana, it’s hard to imagine that Miami is just 90 miles across the ocean.

Havana Carnival

The colourful Carnival takes place on each weekend of July and August. Parades and floats with costumed dancers and musicians make their way along the Malecon to the accompaniment of salsa music. Cuban rum flows freely and thousands throng the malecon and take part in the singing and dancing. A lot of international tourists time their Cuba holidays to coincide with the Carnival.

Posted by on January 28th, 2010

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