There are cities all around the world that are stunningly beautiful and picturesque due to their pristine maintenance and well-preserved facades. Havana is not one of those cities. But what makes Havana so hauntingly beautiful is the raw grittiness of it all. It’s the smiling faces in front of the crumbling buildings, cigar smoke escaping lips to mask the scent of sweat on heated bodies, it’s one eyed cats lazily walking past your legs, and on some occasions, a head of an unfortunate animal offered for Santeria practices. It’s a colorful classic car parked in front of a monotone building like a time piece exhibit in a museum, well-fed dogs begging not for food, but for affection, and fresh paint on rotting walls like a smiling mask to hide the crying face.
But who knows how much longer this city full of living art will survive. It’s out with the old, in with the new, business as usual, gentrification to make the lives of the wealthy more comfortable, brand spankin’ new resorts for appease the tourists who demand first world amenities and an overall face lift to make this war ravaged city more aesthetically pleasing.
If it is the authentic Cuba you wish you see to meet the locals the way they truly live, then the time to visit Havana is now. If you turn your nose at the sight of people living simply and dogs simply being, if you need perfectly paved roads and spotless streets, you might want to wait a few more years. I, for one, loved Havana for She was… an untamed, beautiful disaster, slowly succumbing to the pressure to match the rest of the “civilized” worlds.