In their eyes, Havana’s Malecon is to Habaneros what Central Park is to New Yorkers and Miami Beach is to Floridians: a public space to display, unwind, and commune. She isn’t trimmed with manicured trees or cozy benches, yet this weathered sea wall is the heartbeat of Havana.
In the shadow of tributes to valiant soldiers, each morning fishermen scale her blistered wall with makeshift sea crafts in tow, and cast hopeful lures with the intent to be the provider their father taught them to be.
The Malecon’s four-mile sprawl offers Havana a central commuting artery. It links the resilient residents of Centro Havana to the lively neighborhood of Vedado and the highbrow cliques in Miramar. The midday bustle of horse-drawn carriages, cycle-rickshaws and vintage American cars on sweltering asphalt presents a wishful illusion of a progressive economy.
Every hour of every day the Malecon sea wall quietly witnesses dreams unfurl from aching eyes that steal a moment to pierce the horizon and release prayers to the Yoruba goddess of the sea.
Arien lives with his grandmother in the eroding shell of an apartment above a store in Centro Havana. After school he scours the Malecon. His dream is to earn a living through photography. He snaps his teen-aged peers with an old manual camera and befriends as many camera-toting tourists as possible. The concerned souls he encounters are invited on a cross-town trek to critique the portfolio he pours his entire heart into. Upon this wise sea wall dreams are deferred and destiny is designed.
At nightfall the Malecon becomes a living room sofa. Families drift from once-stately mansions to relax amidst the restless rhythm of the sea and savor small talk and slow-melting vanilla ice cream cones. A tapestry of lives finds peaceful coexistence: The circus-like antics of daredevil bicyclists amuse, nearby a cluster of stylish gay men exchange social notes. Solo serenaders and instrumental quartets pace the Malecon in search of romantic interludes to complement. When a U$1 play fee can’t be paid, a ham sandwich or drink of rum will suffice.
Part playground and part beloved confidante, the Malecon sea wall curbs treacherous tides and summons tireless dreamers. She is to Habaneros what breath is to life.
© SEAN DRAKES
[ 404.654.0859 | SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]