El Malecón or Avenida de Maceo, in Havana City, is one of the longest sea walkways I have ever walked. It is truly a piece of cultural landmark for Cubans. The war of the elements on the façade of the buildings, poets, dancers, artists and lovers all struggle to become one in a dance of splash and melody, on walls of white foam sprayed into the air. Life thrives by the water, as contrasting as it may seem, it moves forward. The incoming and outgoing tide allows all sorts of creatures to inhabit on those sharp barrier reefs. Sea weeds, small mollusks, sea urgings and such.
The Cubans I have come to love move in and out of love as naturally as we breathe, and it is in this boulevard where you see how diversity is their leading character when it comes to partners. Like the diversity those striking colors and the architectural distinctions this road offers. You can’t help but be touched by the reality of the thousands of people that have sat on those walls, contemplating those breathtaking sunsets.
In Cuba, there are no rules when it comes to love. Mulatos and white girls pay no mind to possible criticism, and it is very frequent to see a black girl walking hand in hand with a white boy, without any concern. The same goes for ethnicity, although the races have been mixed in Cuba since the conquistadors. Sometimes, sitting in El Malecón, it seems as if time, in conjunction with those buildings and cars, suddenly stops. Giving everyone a view into the non-existent paradigm of interracial and cross-cultural relationships as it may had happened before on this island.
Therefore, even though some people may stare at my husband and I while we walk in Havana, it is not something that happens as often as it does in other parts of the world, like in some states of the USA. After a while it feels as if we completely blend, not my husband I will say, but me. This is one of the reasons why I travel to Cuba so often, it has become a lifestyle we pursue, and as a bonus, everyone gets good family quality time. But to continue with El Malecón and its enchanting multifaceted reality, I would like to add that every night there are over fifty or more middle aged musicians, striving to make your night memorable, with their guitars or other traditional instruments. They could charge a dollar or two, but like a music jukebox you get what you paid for. From Nat King Cole to contemporary love ballads. Even if their English is as broken as their guitars, they will surely put a smile of joy in your face. They are musicians of the old school, who know how to play by ear and by what’s in their heart.
More than one night I have been pleased with these old troubadours. Their ability to change a tune into a significantly pleasant atmosphere is underrated. Next time you are in Havana remember to walk El Malecón. Blend yourself with the heart of the night by those walls, smell the Caribbean Sea and be part of that mingling of the species. Whether surrounded by African descendants, white Hispanics, natives, criollos, Chinese or European, be part of that cross-cultural environment. I am sure you will hear more than five languages spoken, and if lucky possibly you’ll get to dance with a local.
The sea and the land lead us to these walls of love to come together, there is no denying that. As I grabbed my husband’s arms and started walking away from El Malecón, the first night his family took me there, I couldn’t help but feel the heart of my new cross cultural family, and how their own diversity shines through them in a fiesta of happy attitudes. The fact that they can drop everything and just go listen to the ocean, that is by itself a mood shifting gift. There is no denying how much influence the ocean has on islanders, it’s the source of their character.
The more we become active members in the lives of our in-laws, the more our barriers of differences will learn to be more accepting and tolerant, like tiny creatures in a coral reef. Cuba and its Cubanos have shown me that the beauty of cross cultural relationships is like the beauty of the ocean colliding with the land. Sometimes passive and gentle, meditative and cultural. And other times chaotic, like a volcano reaching out into the pacific. But I can also say that it is often as entertaining and poetic, communal and vibrant as El Malecón.