It’s enough Just getting on the plane to feel the inviting and mysterious difference between where I live, Santiago de Chile and our destination. As passengers we greeted and smiled cheerfully at each other as if we had all met before. With my cousin, we verified that the information we had read in our travel guide was impressively accurate. It was of great value in helping us understand the reality of a different culture.
If you are lucky enough to be given a few travel tips by Cubans living in your country, then you’re 60 percent ready to be seduced by this wonderful place. My cousin and I organized our trip in detail, we selected a beautiful hotel in the historic centre of Havana as we wanted to be there for the local carnival. However, our arrival did not go quite as planned: the reception at the airport from the immigration staff was not the best and our hotel room was not available because of an electrical problem. Everything started going wrong from the beginning. Suddenly someone appeared carrying our luggage and cheerfully explained that we would be spending the night in a convent of cloistered nuns. It seemed unreal. But instead of it bothering us, I think the kindness of these people helped us to overcome the incident pretty quickly. We slept like logs.
A silent dawn was soon interrupted by the appearance of the brother of a Cuban friend who lives in Chile, who offered to be our local guide. Like a good historian, he told us about the rich and powerful history of the island, we cruised around in one of those ancient cars you see so many of on the streets of Havana and then he took us to meet his family in a nearby village reached by red dirt roads. We tried original cigars and the famous mojito made with the best quality rum where just the smallest amount is enough to sweeten your palate. Joy, music and dancing are part of everyday life. It is a culture that has the wisdom to enjoy life.
The beauty of the scenery was immense; the warmth and spontaneity of both children and adults was contagious. The magic and rituals of their unique dances, the beauty of its people’s intertwined ethnicities; tall, masculine and burly men, “seducers by religion” as they say, women with long necks and model-like limbs with their lush and feline walk .
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know the island. The essence of this trip had nothing at all to do with contaminated politics, but rather the experience of walking through the cobblestone streets, looking at the beautiful water fountains that adorn the city, the magnificent architecture of different styles, the major restoration workshops. It’s a different place to the rest of the Caribbean, everything is unique on this island that has been frozen in time.
WRITTEN BY JENNI ROMANINI