Angelo suggested another place where Cubans frequented. Soothing music filled the hot and humid Habana air. They were Son (with a African beat) music, the precursor to modern Salsa music. I loved it immediately. This is Bar El Vinales. I invited Angelo to join me. He was taken aback. Although he had brought guest and tourist here for several years, he had not had a drink before. He seemed overwhelmed. I seldom drink alcohol. This was an exception, immersing into local culture. The Mojito was refreshingly good and costs 5CUC. There were many locals who could afford to dine and drink here. People danced spontaneously to the live music. It seems everyone and anyone can dance. The ambiance and atmosphere topped up with culture and fun was simply great. Live Son and Salsa music, a bit of Cuban Rum, the laughter and “la buena vida”, living the good life combined with the heat and sweat seemed like a great mix for an intoxicating afternoon. I loved it.
Angelo dropped me off at the end of Calle Empedrado, just past La Bodeguita Del Medio which terminated at Plaza de La Catedral. This lovely cobble stoned plaza with adorned with a wonderful and ornately carved Baroque styled Catholic Cathedral as its centerpiece. The plaza is enclosed with similar building filled with offices, museums, artisanal shops and restaurants. The setting sun had cast a strong light on the Cathedral known in Spanish as La Catedral de la Virgen Mara de la Concepcin Inmaculada de La Habana. Completed in 1777, the main building material is coral obtained from the sea floor. Two towers rose beside the Catedral de la San Cristobal. The interior is simpler than the grand exterior. However, loud music and songs blared from huge speakers took away the sanctity of the church.
Two ladies dressed completely in white with coloured bead necklaces sat outside one of the buildings. Walking on the streets, I had noticed mainly women with this dress code. A black doll statue on their side. These are practitioners of the Santaria, an old religion or practice with its roots in Africa. It was brought in by the African slaves. Whether it is superstition, cult or witch craft, today it is intertwined with the catholic religion and the practice is widespread and deeply rooted amongst Cubans, particularly of African origins. I frequently encountered women dressed all in white gowns on the streets of Habana.
As I exited the plaza, I met another practitioner of this Afro-Cuban religion, Santaria. Initially I just watched her. She had a calm and composed demeanour. On a table, a black doll dressed in red was placed beside a newspaper article with a photos on it. She must be popular. Her outfit was simple with a dash of colour from the numerous beads on her neck. However, her colourful extended fingernails were outrages. I had to talk to her just to find out what she is all about. My hesitation is my lack (in fact basic is an over-statement) of Spanish. In the meantime, tourist just took pictures of her, paid a few CUC and continued on. I approached her. She had practiced this culture for many years and a fortune-teller. I noticed cards on the table. She continued that her origins are from the Yoruba people of Africa. I managed to converse for over half an hour. Besides the word she uttered, I was caught up in my mind about her personality. The jiggling of the necklaces every time she moved. The unlit cigar she held in her fingers laden with rings. The gentle smile she gave to the passer-by. She was a colourful lady. I managed to “translate” some parts of her story. It is a shame that most people just walked past. As I left, she called to me, “amigo, hasta luego”. Her name is Adelaida Borges Senora Habana.