Fish & Philosophy

My love affair with Havana began on my first trip with my Australian tango and salsa teacher and fellow students. We came to learn Cuban Salsa at the National School of Arts and some of us left permanently changed: enriched, and with a never-to-end love affair with Cuba and its people.

One of my friends once asked what kept drawing me back and my answer was simple. Here, you can be absolutely yourself. No window dressing – because here window dressing only counts in windows – and not very much there either!

I like this passage from William Least Heat Moon in Blue Highways: A Journey into America for it resonates in truth to me.

What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do - especially in other people's minds.

When you're travelling, you are what you are right there and then.

People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road

Least Moon took two thoughtful books with him on his travels in his green van which he christened "Ghost Dancing": Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and John Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

I probably would have also brought along John Neihardt's other classic Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (Enriched Classics) to help me look at life from a more holistic perspective. Brief times with my Cuban friends showed the focus on what is important in life. I heard the stories of their lives and felt obligated to do something for them. Hopefully, in some small way I made a difference.

Whenever I came, I brought simple over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, clothes I planned to leave behind, once even a Nebulizer – a machine that supplies asthma medication in a fine mist – and essential for those with severe asthma (Credit to Qantas who waived the weight restrictions so I could bring it), plus various practical items including a telescopic fishing rod and Johnson reel, with hooks and lures, lead weights and small pliers in a small but efficient tackle box.

Fishing is not just sport. It is a very important supplement to the table.

Havana-fish-caught-from-the-Malecon

Young and old gather along the Malecón to fish…

Havana-fishing-by-statue-of-Poseidon-Malecon

…or beneath the fort at the mouth of the Almendares River where it empties into the Straits of Florida

Havana-fishing-beneath-the-fort

The Almendares River mouth is a favourite spot as well.

Havana-fishermen-at-the-Almendares-River-Malecon

Either way, it is not a bad way to go shopping for dinner.

Havana-fish-on-the-Malecon

The best view of the whole bay came from an ugly skyscraper which I found to my amusement to be the roost of vultures. As I was told it had formerly been residence for Russian workers, I wondered if there was any connection.

Havana-Bay-and-Malecon-with-Hotel-Nacional

The Malecón, the Havana Sea Wall, curves 7km (4.3 miles) along the bay, with faded pastel facades dreaming back to grander days.

When angry seas try to lash the city, this is Havana’s first line of protection

Havana-waves-breaking-against-the-Malecon

It is a main gathering point - the social hub.

As well as the fishermen, you see lovers cradled against each other, children at play, friends gathered together, people alone gazing at the sea and the horizon as they dream their dreams and think their thoughts - clearer for the sea air.

Once we passed a group of young men drinking the low quality rot-gut rum more available than the better quality to those with limited funds .

They were singing and dancing to music from their boom box. As we passed, one of my Cuban friends became quite thoughtful, as he said.

“That is the tragedy of Cuba. For young men - no job, no house, no ability to build a family place of their own – just their friends, and a bottle of rum on the Malecón.”

I think it was an even sadder statement in Spanish!

As a backdrop to these snapshots of Cuban life, the Greek God Poseidon seems to be on watch on the Malecón overlooking the sea traffic as the sun sinks…

Havana-Poseidon-on-Malecon-at-sunset

…and a mounted Jose Marti watches over those on shore.

Havana-Malecon-Statue-of-Jose-Marti-on-horseback-at-sunset

In the words of Patrick F. McManus

Scholars have long known

that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible

to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary.


More Havana pages:

Havana Angels

Havana Capitol Building

Havana Creative Transportation

Havana Classic Cars

Havana Political Demonstration

Havana Street Water-Skiing

Havana Grandeur

Havana Back Street Rambles

Havana Agricultural Fair

The Art of Dominoes

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