dancing across cuba!

Cuba Travel Blog

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I spent 2 weeks in Cuba and did a tour with 10 other people from around the world.

Cuba is an awesome country - a place of like no other:  The buildings are decaying in many areas... Marble statues of revolutionaries stand in beautiful plazas... Things do not work - the electricity will go off a couple of times a day and just try to get a flight confirmed out of the country!!!... Its safe to walk through the streets of havana at night... There is music everywhere and people DO dance in the streets... I met so many cubans that were salsa teachers... The beautiful 1950's Cadillac that still works - the first thing most tourists do in Cuba is to take a photo of a car or two or three... If i never see a ham and cheese sandwich again it will be too soon (this is the chinese or kebab at 3am too).

.. There is propaganda signs everywhere with claims such as "the Bush plan will destroy families" and "there are millions of children in slavery  around the world and not one of them is cuban" and reminders about the martyr and the revolution and that Bush is the assassin. Just wish i could have read them all properly but my Spanish sux. But there were no Nike or Coca-cola ads anywhere which was great... White-powder sandy beaches... Che-Guevara murals everywhere... Old women with cigars hanging from their mouths... Young ladies in tight revealing clothing... you can see a horse and cart, a fairly new bmw, the cadillacs, bicycle taxis as you travel down a street anywhere...

My first night in Havana was watching flamenco dancers then being swept up in the Carnival along the Malecon (waterfront).

the colourful homes in Santiago de Cuba
There were thousands of people dancing in the streets - i dont know how their hips move like that - then running ahead when the float in the parade got too far ahead. the parade went past homes that people lived in but looked like abandoned buildings. It was dark, and devoid of the conforts we're used to but the old and young seemed to be having a great time.

The first stop on the trip was Santiago de Cuba. Its a beautiful town with the homes all painted different colours, people sitting on the streets playing dominoes, and bands busking in the park. Santiago is built a bit inland and we visited the fort that protected it (tried and failed) from the pirates that sacked the town on a number of occassions. We also visited the Moncada Barracks where the first act of the revolution was staged.

fort at Santiago de Cuba
Fidel and his small army attached here dressed in army uniforms. but the plan was ruined as they were wearing their normal work shoes so the alarm was raised and Fidel was captured and imprisoned.

In Santiago i had my first salsa lesson, but you cannot learn enough in one hour that when you are at the bar and a cuban asks you to dance that you do not make a fool of yourself when you spin left instead of right, get arms tangled, step on his feet... especially when all Cubans can dance beautifully and twirl around the floor. We watched the professional bands a couple of nights play Salsa, Son and Caribbean music and tried to dance a little better the next time around (maybe at the back of the room this time Por Favor?). and we watched a youth group dance all the island dances.

racing through the streets of camaguay

Then to Camguay which is a gorgeous town with winding confusing streets, a real outdoor friendly culture and lovely plazas. We took a few bicitaxi's through the streets and raced until one of the taxi's brakes failed and they had o go around the block before coming to a stop. There is one park here where they have made statues of the some locals and one man was sitting in the same pose, in the same hat, reading the same newspaper as his bronze statue wanting a photo or two - so cute. and the little kids play soccer in the streets, older people play dominoes or chess on the doorsteps.

Then next stop was Trinidad which is a beautiful town that is like an "outdoor museum" with cobblestone streets and old renovated buildings everywhere, little bars and nightclubs in buildings that are just the old brick walls covered in vines and the stars above to dance beneath.

learning salsa
In Trinidad the nights were spent in a large outdoor step area where the bands play and locals dance with the gringos. Here almost everyone we met was a salsa teacher or in a band. Trinidad is somewhere the locals mix freely with the tourists. Tho most of the time they are looking for a lovely foreigner to sponsor them out of cuba. Our nights were spent dancing and drinking mojittos and the highlight would have been the cave nightclub. After midnight we clamboured up a steep hill in the dark, past a ruined church, and found a small opening to a cave. down a couple of steps we paid $3cuc and went down another 20 steps or so. Then through a tunnel and into a huge cavern with the roof 20m high and a big dancefloor already packed with dancers and the DJ booth near the roof.
the group after music lessons
It was so strange, 30m underground, in cuba, in a cave, dancing to salsa, latin america top 10, songs that you would hear in a club anywhere in the west and the songs you hadn't heard since you were 15yrs old. And then the night finished with everyone doing the conga around the dancefloor.  Awesome club by anywhere's standards.

We laid on a beach during the day, had salsa lessons and learnt to play the congas. This is the tall round drum. And anyone that has heard me sing understands a little how musically untalented I am, so I was a little concerned about the music lesson and the making of our own CD. But we sounded surprisingly good. I played 2 congas at once and was not downgraded to the cow bell! So I can now play the chacha and the Chan chan. And the group is expected the record deals to roll in at any time now.

cuban style...

Last stop was in St Clara at the Che Guevara memorial which is another celebration of this martyr and the revolution.

Then back to Havana. The essential experience in Cuba was the Cuban Cigar. having it hanging out of the side of your mouth whilst sipping a mojitto. And to the Tropicana which i would not recomend. there was so much more soul and fun in the bands and performances we'd seen thoughout the country that the "teeth, tits and arse" feathers and colour and set dance moves just didn't feel the same.

We had been staying in Casa Particulares which is a room in peoples homes throughout our trip. Which was a great and way to travel. They followed particular rules of the state as is they were not allowed to serve lobster (but it was always offerred) and you could only feed the people staying in your casa but generally we had group dinners and amazing food in one of the homes.

Che Guevara near the Revolution Memorial
But with the casa's you were lucky to get a toilet seat on the toilet.

Then a couple of days in Cuba as i could not get back to Caymans. It is so hard in Cuba to get anything done! But spent the time wondering through old Havana and going to the Museo de la Revolucion.

I loved Cuba. Go now before Fidel dies as it will probably change heaps and the feeling will be lost as coca cola signs come in, new cars, and the cuban identity dwindles.

Next is Cayman Islands for a few days and then to Mexico.  




sylviandavid says:
nicely done blog.....and I enjoyed the pictures. sylvia
Posted on: Sep 23, 2007
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the colourful homes in Santiago de…
the colourful homes in Santiago d…
fort at Santiago de Cuba
fort at Santiago de Cuba
racing through the streets of cama…
racing through the streets of cam…
learning salsa
learning salsa
the group after music lessons
the group after music lessons
cuban style...
cuban style...
Che Guevara near the Revolution Me…
Che Guevara near the Revolution M…
the 1950s cadillac
the 1950's cadillac
camaguay - the little old man next…
camaguay - the little old man nex…