El Malecon, that grand esplanade that separates Havana from the sea, draws you like a magnet. It seems most powerful late in the afternoon, like today. The sun, hidden behind a thunderhead over the Gulf Stream, is slowly sliding toward the western horizon. A look around and you can see four or five of these billowing dark cloud formations and their slanting rain returning to the sea. Occasionally, the fringes of the clouds glow briefly from lightning and eventually, the thunder’s rumble reaches shore. The air has cooled and the wind has picked up, but no rain yet.
As the clouds move on, fishermen begin to drift to the sea wall, rods in hand. They congregate near the end of El Malecon, at the entrance to Havana’s harbor. Mostly men, young and old alike, stand on the wall “reading the water.”
Slowly, with much discussion, they begin to unwrap and share their fish seducers. Hooks baited, the first casts are made. Lines drawn taut. Wait. Wait. Gazing over the water, exchanging glances.
He can’t have gone, he said “Christ knows he can’t have gone. He’s making a turn. Maybe he has been hooked before and he remembers something of it.” Then he felt the gentle touch on the line and he was happy.
Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
A peacefulness, contentment is palpable. Most Cubans have very little materially, but they have a spirit about them that amazes. They love their country, are warm and friendly, and eager to share their stories.
As evening crowds in, I find myself scanning the darkening horizon wondering if I may catch a glimpse of old man Santiago returning from the sea.