Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Man in Havana 2: On the Waterfront

Havana is a spectacular seaport. Facing the Strait of Florida, the Spanish knew in the 1500s that a fortified city here could control the strait and protect their treasure fleets before they set sail across the Atlantic to return to Spain. And being only 90 miles from the Florida Keys, Havana became a convenient travel destination for Americans in the 20th century. During the Prohibition era, Havana was wet, fun, naughty, and nasty. What happened in Havana stayed in Havana. Remember the musical, "Guys and Dolls"? The gambler, Sky, takes the dowdy Sarah to Havana, and after a number of milkshakes containing Bacardi, she really begins to enjoy herself as well as Mr. Sky.
This is the view of Habana Viejo (Old Havana) from the east side of the harbor channel, from below the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (El Morro fortress). There was some sort of smoky fire burning in the city, unless it was a factory spewing smoke. Air pollution is a serious problem in Havana with all the old cars and industrial sources of smog.
We crossed the harbor by ferry boat (see the previous article) from Casa Blanca to Havana Vieja. I was surprised to see dilapidated wharfs, clearly unused for decades. Three large wharfs are attached to a huge terminal building, known as the Terminal Sierra Maestra. The northernmost wharf has been restored and serves cruise ship passengers, but the southern ones are unrestored. The photograph shows the Santa Clara, but in faded letters you can see "Port of Havana Docks Co,"
The Sierra Maestra terminal was built between 1910 and 1914, a period when Cuba generated tremendous wealth by selling sugar to the United States. A crane barge with bucket was moored next to the building, and I saw some new sheet pile along the shore. The building with the domes across the street is the Sacra Iglesia Catedral Ortodoxa de San Nicolás, the only Greek Orthodox church in Cuba. 
A sign describes some of the renovation that is underway. I tried to enter the building at what looked like an unused door, but a guard shoed me out (they do that to me a lot). 
The restored part of the terminal is quite handsome. The tower with the clay tiles reminds me of railroad stations in the US Southwest built by the Santa Fe Railroad in the late 1800s or early 1900s. 
Che Guevara is here, as he is almost everywhere else in Cuba. Alberto Korda took the iconic photograph on March 5, 1960, at a funeral service for Cubans workers who were killed when a ship carrying arms for Cuban revolutionaries exploded in Havana harbor. Korda used a Leica M2 and 90mm lens on Plus-X film. Che is a martyr of the Revolution. Granma, the "Órgano oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba" wrote, "Che, Cuban citizen by birth. Since 1959, the Cuban people have considered Che one of their own, and the heroic guerilla responded in kind." Click the link to read the rest of the article. It's amazing what skilful propaganda can do.
The color photos above are from a Fuji X-E1 digital camera with 18mm and 27mm Fuji lenses.

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