Rain poured down in buckets as we waited in the car, our walkabout of the city only temporarily postponed by the tropical storm. Lulled into a half-sleep by the sound of the beating torrent on the roof of the car, I dreamed of what I might find within the walls of Old Havana.
Eventually, the clouds parted and we set off on our adventure. With its baroque architecture, pastel accents, narrow walkways, and shimmering cobblestones, the original Spanish center of the city did not disappoint. The legends of explorers, friars, and pirates live on in the shadowy alleys and light-filled plazas, and I found myself caught up in their dramatic history.
My only regret was to see much of this ancient architecture in disarray. Centuries of wear and decades of neglect have taken their dismal toll on most of the buildings and I only hope that someday soon, they will be restored to their original beauty.
Sadly, I couldn't help but reflect on the disconnect between the faded glory of Old Havana and the realities of Cuba today. No longer capable of sustaining such elegance and excess, Post-modern Havana is lean, tough and punctuated with the raw passions of life.
But as we left the dream world of the old walled city and came back to reality, I stumbled upon this: couple wrapped in a warm embrace, their laughter ringing out as their silhouettes were framed against a strong, featureless wall.
This is Cuba today. And simple as it might be, it is as filled with spirit as the ancient streets of Old Havana.