Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Cuban Experience

Heather Flynn, reporting from Havana
After a day full of excursions to various historical sights and museums, I along with 14 of my comrades set out into the bustling streets of Havana in search of a good meal and an “authentic Cuban experience”.  Little did I know we were about to be taken aback by the abundance of Cuban culture we would encounter.
We sauntered down Obispo street in Old Havana, a long, narrow, overcrowded street lined with countless shops and restaurants. In front of each business was an employee showing off merchandise or trying to coerce us into their restaurant claiming that it was, “the best in Havana”. The street was a social hub, buzzing with human interaction. Young lovers embraced on dim lit corners, groups of women gathered and chatted with jovial smiles on their faces, and men stood laughing at private jokes and observing passersby. We strode past several restaurants searching for a place we could all agree on. After a few trips up and down the street and a group vote, we eventually settled on an authentic Cuban restaurant offering a bargain price for college students on a budget. 

There was a live band playing Latin music, and it was full of people relaxing and enjoying large meals and refreshing mojitos. The restaurant had a covered roof, but was open to the street, providing the perfect blend of indoor and outdoor dining. I had shrimp, rice and salad, two mojitos and flan. The atmosphere at the restaurant was everything I had hoped. The live music was phenomenal, and people even got up and began to dance. Sitting in my chair, I couldn’t help moving my shoulders playfully to the enchanting rhythm. One musician must have noticed, because he appeared over my right shoulder urging me to join him on the dance floor. I tried to decline the offer, but some serious peer pressure and whooping yells from my table had me up on my feet, hand in hand with the musician, and in front of the band in a mere 30 seconds. A rush of adrenaline hit me as we began to move. Swirling, turning, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, right, left, right. The counts of three began playing in my ears as I called upon the bit of salsa training I had received growing up dancing. When we finished I felt a sense of relief as my friends all cheered and I quickly scooted back to the safety of my table, glad I had done it, but still a little red with embarrassment.

Attention was quickly directed back to our meal and I was able to observe many Cubans walking by and hanging out in the street while we were eating. Several even stopped and stood outside the restaurant listening to the music. One woman, an older lady in an orange blouse with a white head scarf stood outside the window and danced for a delectable 30 minutes. Her hips moved in perfect unison to the beats of the music, she could have given any young dancer a run for her money. The music enveloped her in her own world. She hardly even realized people were watching her. Suddenly she presented a beautiful fan with flowers on it from her belongings. The flutter of her fan was tantalizing as she danced and swayed to the music. This is a perfect example of the passion and love for music and dance the Cuban Culture possesses. The culture is so rich I can almost taste it. Music is more then just a form of entertainment; it is part of the Cuban identity. It is in their blood, the music moves them. I left the restaurant that night contented, and sure I had just had an indisputable “Cuban Experience”.

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