Friday, May 31, 2013

The streets of Havana; a playground

Heather Flynn
Reporting from Havana

In todays’ day and age it is rare to see children in America playing alone outdoors, especially in cities. A lot of children spend time consumed with television, the Internet, or video games. There are numerous advantages to the world of technology we are living in, but sometimes it makes me wonder, what are we giving up when we embrace this technology-crazed generation. Traveling to Havana, Cuba was as if I had taken a trip back to a simpler time, before human interaction was replaced with cyber space relationships. Everywhere we went people were outdoors talking and interacting with each other. Older people would sit and socialize, drink beer, or play games. At night time the Malacon, Havana’s biggest social gathering location would be crawling with people young and old, all interacting and spending time together. Everywhere we went, children could be spotted crouching and playing games in the dirt, or chasing each other up and down the crowded streets of Havana.
 A group of us students meandered down a side street one afternoon and came across three small boys that couldn’t have been older than six or seven. Two of them shirtless, and all three playing on a large metal dumpster with a slanted lid providing the perfect angle for a slide.  One child would climb to the top of the metal and slide down and the other boys would follow suit. They were cheerfully talking and laughing, as they would race to get to the top before their pals. When we began to take pictures they really started showing off, standing on top and posing for the camera. They held up their arms making “muscle man” poses and showing us their muscles. There were no parents in sight, but this didn’t seem to phase the children. 

    Brittany Cardoza poses with three Cuban children on the streets of Havana

Another night after dinner we were walking the streets of Havana looking for a market to buy some water. Turning a corner I was almost run-over by a shirtless boy, about age 11, sprinting up the street. Shortly after 3 more boys joined him, all breathing heavy and panting from running.

 They appeared to be playing a game, chasing each other around the city. One of the people in our group began talking to them in Spanish and asked them for directions to a market. They were happy to help and began leading us down the street in what they said was the right way. We asked them if they had school the next day and why they were out so late on a Sunday night. They explained they did have school the next day, but they were out celebrating mother’s Day. I found it amusing they weren’t with their mothers at all. The helpful, sweet nature of the boys kept a permanent grin on my face as we trailed them down the street, attempting to maneuver through people and past cars as gracefully as they did. One of the boys, the leader of the pack, hastily stopped in front of a bar, proudly proclaiming that we had arrived. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but we were thankful for their efforts. Once they thought we were satisfied, they bid us farewell and took off as quickly as they came through the streets of Havana. I turned, watching their figures fade into the distance, listening to their bird-like screeches, until gradually, their sounds blended back into the familiar busy noise of the city streets.  

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