Walking along Calle Obispo (the main shopping street in Old Havana), predictable Cuban music (a la the Buena Vista Social Club, legends in Cuba) leaks from every tourist joint. It’s well known that the tourists hang in Havana Vieja, and the locals are all west of the Capitolio. However, despite this, Havana has an energy all of its own; life is everywhere; music and dance seeps from its pores.
Passing one bar on a corner, a crowd gathers and music throbs onto the street. A toned, gorgeous woman with long, dark hair, totally pulling off the short skirt and high heels combo, moves as if part of the music, her voice booming across the bar. The band’s front man is a hilarious, sweaty dude, singing and dancing and pulling faces that makes the punters laugh. The crowd collectively bounces.
I video them, and when I put my camera down, the clown dances over to me, singing and making faces. I shimmy on cue, and, for a fleeting moment to the applause of the crowd, join the show. He juts his cheek to me for a kiss (to which I comply) and I immediately buy their CD.
I’m soon to be upstaged; an old woman grabs a bystander and starts to strut her stuff. She must be in her 70’s but Cubans dance like they breathe: from birth and the rhythym pulsates through the crowded bar.
Later in the day, realising I’ll soon be out of pesos, I visit the bank. Cuba has systems that are odd at best; it’s best to turn up expecting everything to operate weirdly or you will be greeted only by disappointment. Instead of allowing customers to wait in the bank, we must instead line up outside and a man at the door lets one in as one leaves. The mobile phone company at which I want to buy a SIM card operates the same, but in a slightly more unclear line. Locals who arrive on the line ask “Ultimo?” (who is last?), the person owns up, and you know who you are meant to walk in behind.
It is the end of my first full day, and although I know I should visit some music place, I am content to relax without dinner and watch more Entourage, happy in the knowledge that my visit to Cuba has been anything but a mistake.