Havana, Cuba

Jan 12, 2018 - Harmony V

We continued our people to people experience in Cuba today with a trip outside Havana to the smaller city of Alamar.  This was a glimpse of life off the beaten path.  Soviet style block buildings lined streets filled with people, tractors and old cars.  We visited a small market stocked with fresh organic produce.  One of the well-known institutions in this area is Organopónico Vivero Alamar, a 25-acre cooperative farm that provides fresh organic produce to the community and employs over 150 people.  This farm was founded in 1997 as an urban garden that grew over time to a full-fledged farm within the city.  We were guided through the operations by one of the founders’ daughters, Isis Salcines.  She showed us field after field of men working the land with oxen and by hand, harvesting bok choy, planting lettuce and tending to irrigation lines.  They also provide dried herbs, sugar cane, ornamentals, and medicinal plants.  With the reality of isolation and limitation of imports, many of us were impressed by this successful model for sustainability within the heart of an urban environment.

For lunch we visited, one of Havana’s paladares (private restaurants), Casa Abel where we had the opportunity to try a Cuban delicacy, tender roasted chicken marinated in rum overnight. From there we traveled to the eastern side of Havana for a private performance from Habana Compas Dance Company.  This group, comprised mostly of women, combines dance with percussion in innovative ways.  They use drums, chairs, the floor and their bodies as instruments.  The performance itself is a blend Spanish dance with Cuban and African beats.  The group, established in 2004 by Lilet Rivera, begins training young girls at the age of 5 the art of percussion that is the foundation of their style.  As the girls grow, they are taught the dances and are able to try out for the professional group at age 17.  This group performs around Cuba and internationally, including the United States.

The evening included a rooftop dinner at the Hotel Parque Central.  This meal, however was very special, because it included a private performance from Septeto Nacional, a world renowned Son ensemble.  Septeto Nacional formed in 1927.  The music we enjoyed was performed by the fourth generation of the band, a group that has been awarded with three Grammy nominations.   Few of us could resist the lively beats and prompting by professional dancers…ending our last evening in Havana in the best way I can think of – dancing!

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About the Author

Jennifer Davidson

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Jennifer Davidson is a photographer and educator specializing in documenting travel and culture. She has photographed across the globe, including extensively in Colombia, where she visited remote fishing villages, as well as in Ecuador, where she focused her lens on indigenous cultures in the highlands and Amazon regions. Jennifer’s work in South America and the Galápagos Islands has been published in National Geographic Traveler (UK), and she has logged over 35 expeditions to the Galápagos, having traveled there with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions since 2007.

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