When I told Cubans about my decision to stay in central Havana, they were shocked. They thought I would rather enjoy some beach resort in Varadero away from the Cuban hustle and bustle. However, I have always been immensely fascinated with the rich culture of everyday Cuban lifestyle. I knew I made the right decision when I booked the casa particular just blocks away from the Malecón located in Havana’s northern coast.
The Malecón roadway is a five-mile avenue seawall where Havana and the ocean separates. Originally called Avenida de Golfo, this charming avenue was designed by Cuban engineer Don Francisco de Albear. Malecón translates to breakwater which is evident as the oceans’ water clashes with the seawall. Initially constructed in 1901, it was built to protect the city from the strong sea waters and potential enemy attacks from pirates and colonists. The historic avenue stretches from Havana Harbor in Old Havana to the modern downtown El Vedado. This iconic and popular scene is featured on many films shot in Havana. As the old school cars passed by and the locals Cubans fished, my soul was so inspired.
The Malecón has spectacular views of many historical monuments. One of my favorite landmarks is Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro. Also known as Morro Castle, this Havana symbol was built by slaves and was meant to protect the town of San Cristobal de Havana. Prisoners were actually held in this castle and were fed to sharks through holes in the wall. I nervously watched as the locals dived in and out of the ocean water (I’ll pass. All I kept thinking about were those sharks). In 1844, a lighthouse called the Faro del Morro was built to add more defense. The evening view of the castle and lighthouse is one of the most beautiful and scenic locations I’ve ever seen. The sun’s reflection bouncing off of the ocean’s waves was captivating.
The Havana Malecón is a spot that you have to see in person. It is like going into a Cuban history book. We realized that this avenue had so many landmarks and things to see. We ran into the fortress of San Salvador de la Punta. This historical landmark was completed in 1603 and served as a lookout for the harbor. One of the best views of the fortress is between the intersection of Prado street and El Malecón. On the side of the fortress, there is still a cannonball stuck between the rocks as evidence of battle. I couldn’t help but to wonder how many battles took place here.
As my wife bought me back to the present day, the illuminating rays from the sun was very healing to my soul. We decided to take a break from walking. I was craving more adventure but the Havana evening was so beautiful that I became stuck in the present moment as I looked across the Havana Harbor.
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