A corner of Havana

A corner of Havana

Places

There is very little high ground in Havana, since Cuba’s capital city is very far from the island’s mountainous zones. However, I recently walked past one of the city’s most famous hills, located right in the heart of the city in the Vedado neighborhood. Vedado was a protected area of the city, off limits to the population during the colonial era, and eventually became an exclusive neighborhood starting in the early 20th Century. The area immediately around this hill is known as La Rampa, and is has a great deal of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Walking towards the north, La Rampa ends a few blocks ahead when it reaches Havana’s “malecon,” right by the Hotel Nacional. In the other direction, what is commonly considered La Rampa ends around J Street.

Cutting through La Rampa is Twenty-third Avenue, as I walked along it the other day I noticed several inlayed paintings on the sidewalk with only millimeters of separation between them. I concluded that this was not some haphazard street art, and then noticed that there were paintings up and down both sidewalks running along Twenty-third Street. The paintings on the sidewalk are reproductions of famous pieces by some of Cuba’s most recognized painters from the first half of the Twentieth Century. The dozens of reproductions represent works by Luis Martinez Pedro, Sandu Darie, Salvador Corratge, Raul Martinez, Antonio Vidal, Wilfredo Lam, Mariano Rodriguez, Guido Llinas, Rene Portocarrero, and Cundo Bermudez.

As I continued walking on La Rampa, I noticed one of Havana’s most impressive cityscapes, which includes views of the Hotel Nacional, and the Habana Libre Hotel. Anyone approaching The Habana Libre will be welcomed by a sculpture in relief by Cuban sculptor Amelia Pelaez, that represents a welcome offering of tropical fruits. Across the street from the Habana Libre is Cuba’s most famous ice cream shop, Coppelia. Built in a unique modernist style, Coppelia stands out, and is oftentimes surrounded by hundreds of people waiting in line. On this day the line went around the block! I eventually had three delicious scoops of ice cream, and continued on my journey once again crossing the street towards the Yara Theatre.

I eventually wound my way back to the “malecon,” carefully walking around bunches of people who were connected to the wifi networks that are available in the area. My stroll through this corner of Havana made me grateful for living in a city that is in some places a combination of a living museum and art gallery.

By Nivaldo Asuncion

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