Sunset Rituals in Havana, Cuba

Nikonia: As luck would have it, I found myself in Old Havana the day before the historic reopening of the US Embassy. I was greeted in my “casa particular” with a freshly squeezed lemonade and a dated Lonely Planet. Being a telephoto lens and consulting a guide book in public was a sure recipe to be labeled as a tourist. Enthusiastic shop owners were approaching me with “Buongiorno” and “Nin Hao,” but nobody guessed to say “Hello”. It’s not a surprise, since only 91 thousand American tourists visited Cuba in 2014, but that number is likely to jump. Cuba will never be the same.

As I was strolling down Aguilar, it was refreshing to see Old Havana residents catching up after a long work day. Cuban TV might not have reality shows, but who needs those when you have friendly neighbors and a comfortable stoop?

Evening Gossip in Havana
Evening Gossip in Havana

Even pets have mastered the art of people watching in Havana. This friendly puppy has a mezzanine seat to the nightly performance taking place on narrow colorful streets.

Friendly Puppy on Balcony in Havana Vieja
Friendly Puppy on Balcony in Old Havana

Crossfit has yet to arrive in Cuba, so athletes exercise wherever they can, even in DIY rooftop gyms..

Havana Rooftop Gym
Havana Rooftop Gym

Karate training is also taking place outside for anyone to see or join.

Martial Arts on Streets of Havana
Martial Arts in a Park

And everywhere groups of children played on the streets, no digital devices to interfere with their fun.

Children Playing by Parque Martires del 71
Children Playing by Parque Martires del 71

They were simply children greedily taking in the last moments before sundown and pretending not to hear their parents calling them home for supper.

Canary Vintage Car in Havana
Canary Vintage Car in Havana

It made me nostalgic for my own childhood.

Children at Play on Steps of Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio
Children at Play on the Steps of Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio

Reminiscent of my paparazzi days, I spotted this couple on the balcony just above the plaza. They were probably keeping an eye on the kids, but they just as easily could have been characters from one of Hemingway’s unwritten short stories.

Window to Havana's Prosaic Life
Window to Havana’s Prosaic Life

Leaving the labyrinth that is Old Havana, I walked along the Malecon and fell in love with this enigmatic city even more. I joined the locals witnessing this grand culmination of the day as the sun ceremoniously departed from horizon.

Fishermen on Malecon, Havana
Fishermen on the Malecon, Havana

The last rays of light were illuminating the city…

Parque Martires del 71 in Purple Haze
Parque Martires del 71 in Purple Haze

…and the sea.

Lone Ship at Twilight
Lone Ship at Twilight

Everywhere around me people were sharing special moments: fishermen boasting about their latest catch, lovers embracing, this proud father teaching his little girl how to ride a bike.

Father/Daugher Bike Ride on Malecon
Father/Daugher Bike Ride on Malecon

At the end of the day I could only make out silhouettes, but that only etched the images deeper into my soul. Eventually the darkness swallowed colorful colonial facades, classic automobiles, revolutionary messages and other symbols of Havana, yet the city’s heart was just beginning to reveal itself to me in plain sight.

Havana Sunset
Havana Sunset

2 thoughts on “Sunset Rituals in Havana, Cuba

  1. What a beautiful photo essay. I was there last month and blown away by how photogenic it is. I love the fishermen on the Malacon photo. It technically breaks rules but is a stunning shot.


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