Night drive on the Malecon
The Malecon is quintessential Havana. Imagine driving down this wide boulevard in a '57 Chevy convertible with a seawall and blue ocean on one side, and colorful, crumbling old pastel colored balconied buildings on the other side. The sea breeze is blowing and people are hanging out, or fishing or watching kids in the water. Guitar players on the seawall and jineteros hustling tourists. What could be more Cuban?
Tourists love the area, of course, making it a top Havana destination, but the locals love it too. It is a place to escape the heat and enjoy the breeze. Lovers find the Malecon to be a romantic spot, fishermen love it, and of course kids delight in it. Most of all though, it is cheap entertainment for the poor; a place to hang out with friends or family that costs nothing.
I know from personal experience that you might be soaked in sweat from walking the streets of summertime Havana, but sitting on the seawall at night will cool and invigorate you. Additional photos from a recent Havana Trip are here.
The Malecon stretches along the waterfront from Old Havana , Central Havana and Vedado. It provides a stunning panorama with the setting sun, or a dramatic scene on stormy days when waves break on the seawall.
The beginnings of this was the late 1800's, but expanded drastically in the early 1900's when hotels and tourists were booming here. It continued through the art deco period and into the modern 50's. Then came the Revolution, the confiscation of private property, the embargo, the Russians and the death knell, the "Special Period". This grandiose 8 km strip has been in decay for a half century.
It has been battered by salt air for decades but private businesses are bringing it back to life.
Salt laden sea air is corrosive; add to this lack of money, lack of resources for repairs and it's easy to see how this decadent strip (along with a lot of areas of Cuba) has been allowed to decay. Some of these buildings are in wonderful shape, but a huge number are falling apart. The saving grace may be Habaguanex (See their mention regarding preservation in Old Havana) has designated 14 blocks of El Malecon to be preserved and restored.
Collapsing old masonry buildings are not a rare occurrence in Havana, even with people in them. Maybe increased American tourism will help provide needed dollars for these projects.