A Spanish word meaning an embankment, pier or jetty, yet in Havana it is so much more than that much as the Thames Embankment is in London.
The Malecón is the sea wall that runs for 8km west from Havana Harbour and thus joins the districts of Vieja, Centro and Vedado. It’s broad promenade is a popular social venue for youth’s to meet and drink cheap rum, fisherman to perch upon as we’ve seen, and courting couples to stroll by. (Apparently it’s also a popular location for prostitution whether straight or gay). The road that runs alongside is equally popular with those wanting to show off their vehicles in various states of restoration.
All of that is in the guidebooks, but one encounter they didn’t prepare me for was the woman chanting some sort of incantation to the sea, casting material upon the waves and threatening them with a maraca.
It also provides space from which to photograph the city in ways that capture some of the contrasting hues of its buildings, convene a little band practice, or indulge your wish to dance to Cuban rhythms.
The section adjoining Centro was once noted for its multi-coloured Art Deco buildings, though sadly these are mostly in very poor repair. A sign posted on hoardings pointed to a government backed restoration project, though the meaning of restoration here seemed more akin to demolition and replacement. I fear an almost Disney-like experience of pristine structures pretending to be something older.
Peering over the sea wall there are traces of previous constructions. The rough stone beyond is cut into squares and rectangles. Were these buildings once or are these the voids left by quarrying stone for construction elsewhere. Maybe they are pools hewn to capture or contain fish. Whatever their purpose they now capture the detritus of all those visitors.
It’s still a lovely walk nevertheless.