The most well-known spot in Havana is the famous Malecón, a five-mile long esplanade, street and seawall which stretches along the coast in Havana connecting the mouth of the Havana Harbor in Habana Vieja, passing through Centro Habana and ending in the more upscale Vedado neighborhood. Known by locals as the “big sofa” or the “living room” the Malecón is a testament of el Triunfo de la Revolución (the triumph of the revolution as Cubans say) and is awash with the sheer irony of the Cuban revolution.
Built at the start of the 20th century, the main purpose of the Malecón was to protect Havana from the ocean waters pounding against her shore. As the Malecón was developed, glorious 19th and 20th century structures were built and lined the Avenida de Maceo (the street along the Malecón). Over time as the effects of el triunfo de la revolución slammed into Cuba, the Malecón became run-down, weathered and in a huge state of deterioration and decay. It is a tragedy to see how these buildings, which Cubans still live in, look today.
Yet the Malecón continues to be the most popular promenade in all Havana where teenagers, lovers, families and friends spend their evenings hanging out along one of the world’s most dilapidated “back porch”. A sunset ride along the Malecón inside a 1950s convertible is the way to see it all in style! Sadly, it rained the one night we had our cars booked so I had to do it the old-fashioned way: Cheap taxi and walk.
Take a ride with me along the Malecón, Havana’s biggest living room and see how the days of the Cuban revolution have weathered this once spectacular place.
As I walked the five-mile stretch from Old Havana back to my plush hotel in Vedado I couldn’t help but feel sad for the Cubans living in these terrible circumstances. I asked a local if buildings collapse frequently like they do in parts of India and if there are any building codes. Sadly, there is not. Havana remains the most densely populated urban city in Cuba and families are crammed together in very tight apartments that are not up to code, unsafe and falling apart. But what can they do when they have no choice?
This is part of a two-part series on the Malecón. The second post will show the seaside view of the Malecón. Stay tuned….