Feb 09, 2018 - Harmony V
Shakespeare famously wrote, "If music be the food of love, play on!" Our day in Havana began with food and ended with music…alas, my love was many miles away back home, but she has been with me in spirit on this Cuban sojourn.
Our morning began with a drive through the tunnel that travels under Havana harbor eastward. Our guide reminisced that he used to think it was the longest tunnel in the world, until a first trip overseas revealed that it was really "a small hole in the ground…but it's our hole." The route took us to Alamar, a neighborhood of nearly 100,000 people built in the 1970s. The massive Soviet-style apartment buildings are nothing to get excited about, but we weren't here for the architecture.
Our destination was Alamar's organic farm, an urban oasis that is pioneering Cuba's drive toward local agriculture. Out guide, Isis, is the daughter of the farm's founder, and she and her father have spent the last twenty years creating a model community farm based on ecologically friendly techniques and culinary diversity. Afterwards, we explored Alamar, wandering into hair salons, farmer's markets and bakeries, always to a warm welcome by the locals.
After a fantastic lunch at the Abel paladar, a privately run restaurant, it was time to move from food to music as we enjoyed an energetic performance by dance and percussion troupe Havana Compás. Their captivating blend of Spanish flamenco with Afro-Cuban percussion had us all smiling and tapping our toes.
The music continued with an impromptu visit to Patio Egrem, a music venue in Centro Havana connected to Cuba's oldest recording studio. We were treated to a traditional rumba, and Afro-Cuban music and dance form that is an essential expression of Cuban culture.
And the beat continued once we got to dinner on the roof deck of the stylish Parque Central hotel. There, we were blessed by a marvelous private performance by Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñero, a band that was founded way back in 1927. Food and music were united during an excellent meal spiced with world-class musical accompaniment. And, yes, much dancing ensued.