Blogging Havana: Eating where Hemingway ate

Angela Chon

Sunday, Jan. 18
The moment we got out of the airport in Havana, Cuba, I noticed the vintage cars. Lined perfectly side-by-side, they each sported colors of maroon, turquoise, and yellow. We took our tour bus to Cuba Havana, where we had a popular dish of chicken, rice, beans, and fried potato. The cuisine was all very salty, but I felt like I was starving and so ate a good portion of food. After our late dinner, we arrived at our hotel, El Bosque, a very traditional-looking building, where the rooms were equally as colorful as their cars. The lack of public Wi-Fi made me a little nervous at first, but I was too exhausted from the flight and long day that I didn’t mind too much.

Monday, Jan. 19
I woke up to an already sunny day and a view from my fourth-floor balcony of hundreds of small colorful houses, a few tall and traditional buildings, all intertwined in the green plant life.

Our first exploration was to United Buddy Bears, a plaza filled with bears decorated individually to each represent a different country. After taking pictures and b-roll film footage, we visited a school of restoration where students help build back artifacts that have been destroyed. I interviewed one of the instructors, who told me that the priority was to restore the capital building. These students work to preserve the history of Cuba, embedded into their centuries-old buildings.

Afterward, we toured around the city more, taking pictures of the sea wall with waves crashing into it every few minutes. The streets of the town were filled with smells of delicious food and Cuban music. The unpaved streets and the rusting buildings still accommodated for much culture.

For dinner we ate at La Bodeguita del Medio, where the writer Ernest Hemingway had eaten. The restaurant was filled with live music and this time I recognized both “Bailando” and “Guantanamera.” The walls were decorated with signatures and initials of all visitors, and I added my name on an empty corner as well.

The night ended with a walk down Old Havana where we walked up the Hotel Ambos Mundos and enjoyed a scenic view of Havana night lights.

Tuesday, Jan. 20
We arrived at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, an organization dedicated to promoting racial equality in Cuba. A man told me about Cuban identity and the effects of the embargo on the citizens of Cuba. While I was able to get medication for the slightest headache, Cubans often didn’t have access to medicine for more serious injuries.

Although we had hoped to find students at the center to exchange our cultures with, we were told students didn’t visit the center until early February. Instead, we interviewed one of the organizers at the center, which ended up inspiring how I intend to make the film I am making here.

After the interview, Head of Visual Arts Cheri Gaulke, Mikaela Wolfsdorf ’16, Cameron Stine ’17 and I walked around the town and took footage and pictures of more vintage cars and libraries filled with old books.

When we regrouped with the rest of the crew, we started toward Viñales, a more rural part of Cuba two hours away from Havana, where we would stay with host families.

During the ride, I experienced another culture shock. Agriculture plays such an important role in Cuban everyday life. There were many bulls, goats, chickens, and horses alongside the rows of plantation fields.

When we finally arrived in Viñales, we each separated into our home stay homes, which ended up being more like small Inns rather than being immersed in the daily life of a real family.

We were told to get our own dinner around the town, which was difficult with our limited Spanish and our desire for the more American burger rather than the typical Cuban meal of rice, beans, and chicken.

After a late dinner and a Cuban traditional mojito drink, we all headed back to our individual homes to get enough rest for the following day.