Written by Aashna, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Cuba: Advances in Healthcare, Summer 2019
Havana’s energy is tangible. There is a buzz in the air and lively chatter or music everywhere one goes. Being from suburban Arizona, I had never really experienced city life and didn’t know quite what to expect. But I realized during my first walk in Old Havana that what this city has to offer is more than I ever could have asked for.
I began the day early, waking up just before sunrise so I could be outside before the brutal heat and humidity took over. My roommate and I walked up to the rooftop terrace, and though we had planned to finish our reading from the previous night, I was so enthralled by our surroundings that I couldn’t help but to stare out into the sea of buildings, watching the city slowly come alive. Bright, wispy clouds of pastel seeped into indigo skies as the sun slowly ascended from beyond the Malecón, the boardwalk, and the still image of Havana before us turned into a dynamic scene. The sounds of the roosters crowing early in the morning were gradually replaced by rattling engines of vintage cars and the bustle of residents who had begun their morning commute. This was the first time I was truly captured by the beauty of Havana, from the sparkle of the water just past the Malecón to the peculiar charm of the old worn-down buildings– though I knew I’d hardly seen anything yet.
Havana’s distinctive appeal really became prevalent when we visited Old Havana later that afternoon. Even on the bus ride there it was easy to see the multicultural and multi-generational influence on the architecture throughout the city. There were some buildings with linear, clean structures, and often surrounding them were buildings that had colonial embellishments and filigree designs. One of my favorite buildings that we visited was the former building of National Treasury. Each story of the building had a different architectural style to represent the various nations’ influence on Havana and Cuba as a whole.
Another one of my favorite buildings was the Cathedral de San Cristóbal. One of the oldest and most historical buildings in the Americas, the intricate and ornate gold designs around the various frescoes shined with light reflected from the grand marble pillars. Despite the fact that the Cubans call it “the ugliest church ever” (according to our tour guide), I really like this building because the various pieces of architecture and art showcase the different influences Cuba experienced throughout its history.
Walking through the narrow streets of Old Havana, surrounded by colorful colonial buildings or lively singers and instrumentalists at every turn, the city’s endearing energy became hard to miss. Compared to the dull desert surroundings I am used to, Havana is dancing with color and life, and to call it vibrant would almost be an understatement. The varied cultures and peoples create a unique and memorable atmosphere that is unlike any I’ve experienced before. A tangible energy if you will- although that might just be the humidity.