Havana-Creeping into Modernity One Stroke at a Time
When Havanans have access to colour, they apply it with a heavy brush … intense, powerful, striking dabs on an otherwise monochrome landscape. Colour has always been around, lurking in Havana cultural life, most noted and obvious, the arts, music and architecture. Although suppressed over the past half century, new, bold shades are seeping out from the cracks in the canvas. While paint is desperately lacking in the crumbling architecture, and vision can be clouded by exhaust spewing Ladas, vivid colour is applied liberally to the everyday palette - the showy street costume, the impromptu sax playing in a refurbished plaza, the full spectrum and style displayed in street art. Locals meander down the Paseo del Prado (a long, wide boulevard built in the late 18th Century) in sexy, current, bright attire – chatting vigorously and, generally, minding their business. "American cars" perpetually undergo body work in the street in rich colours never imagined by Chevrolet. For a city of over 2 million, Havana streets are peaceful, but music of every genre intermix with the requisite dancing in the eateries, the hotel lobbies, the bars, the cafes and the clubs and spill out into the street at any time. When Cubans have access to anything, they "make do" as best they can, offering a fascinating peek to outsiders unfamiliar with a forced recycling of every aspect of life and the results of such resourcefulness.
Rustic, historic, charming and gently deteriorating, Havana is a city of contrast, a living cemetery of things past, hundreds of years of undisturbed relics. Recent access to tourism has afforded opportunities to locals previously unimagined and yet Havana remains largely unspoiled, waiting to tempt visitors' sensations. It offers what the capitol of most developing countries offer, but the twist here is the contrast between being “caught in time” and the subtle creep into modernity that can be witnessed on the streets, as locals eke out a living space in a world between "pause" and "forward".