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The music and street life of Havana 2016

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Published on Oct 25, 2016

I went to Havana at the start of October 2016 to study bread and bakers there (hence the series of shots of bakeries in the middle here, and footage of bakers working). This is a look at the music (ubiquitous), the cars, the buildings (beautiful or broken down), the streets (ditto), various signs, some historic forts, street celebrations, restaurants, markets, one modern shopping center and just the energy of a dynamic city in transition.

All this is mainly between El Centro (the more 'real' part of town) and Old Havana. (I was staying at the border between them, in a casa particular run by Wilfredo, a former engineer and lawyer.) The Vedado is far more residential (and a bit boring. though it too has its sights); I never saw the areas beyond that.

I didn't note all the names of the music venues, but here are most:
- opening group; Cafe Neruda (on the Malecon)
- trio with woman on guitar; Noa (in the old town)
- group in white; Cafe Europa (on the Calle Obispo)
- group in open corner cafe, El Escabeche (Calle Obispo)
- group in middle of block, La Pergola (Calle Obispo)
- stilt walkers with parasols, Calle Obispo
- group with bass player through window, Cafe Paris (old town)
Several others around the old town.

Hopefully this makes it clear how varied Havana is, with beautiful old, lovingly tended buildings right by derelict ones, with narrow, often shattered streets that nonetheless have a lot of street life (vendors, loiterers, workers, etc), wide old streets and plazas in the old town, a few really old sights (forts, etc.), walks along the ocean-facing Malecon, rustic touches like chickens in the street and butchers with only tables and cleavers to work with, a dizzying variety of vehicles, some very nice new restaurants, and above all music. Lots and lots of music.

Also, despite what some might expect, very few police or soldiers and almost no propaganda. Nor did I have too much trouble with jineteros (street hustlers) (though two actually touched me when I ignored them). And the only "professional lady" who came on to me was pretending to sell books (that's a new one :) ).

Mainly, despite great deprivations, friendly, warm, cheerful people. People many more Americans should get to know.

Oh, and a lot of smartphones. Go figure.

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