Reading the Water – a Photo Essay

Reading the Water – a Photo Essay

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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.

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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.”

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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.

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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


Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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.

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

Fishing on the Malecon, Havana photo

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.


Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. I love your photos from Havana, Ron, and this series tells a great story of a culture and fishing. The Hemingway quote is an apt accompaniment to the photos. 🙂

    1. Thank you Cathy. One of my favorite authors.

  2. I love these moody photos. There’s an air of enduring persistence about the subjects as they set about their fishing. The boy on the third shot from the end is especially striking.

    1. You describe the feeling I had that afternoon perfectly. Thanks you Trish.

  3. Your pensive photos and perfect text would make for a great book!

    1. Wow. Thank you so much Dudley. I am seriously thinking about that.

    1. Thanks Lynne and thank you for visiting.

  4. Great series Ron, would like to be there now with a beer in hand and enjoying the life moving all around… your photography makes it seems like a perfect place to be. Well done.

    1. Thanks Randall. You should go before it looses it’s charm.

  5. Looking at your photos, I can see that the Cuban men take their fishing very seriously. This really shows in their faces. Great series of photos, Ron.

  6. Love your portrayal of life on the Malecon! No 5 is especially striking!

    1. Thanks Madhu. It was a great afternoon people and weather watching.

  7. These pictures remind me of my travel to Havana last summer: wonderful!

    1. I am glad the post brought back happy memories for you. Thanks for visiting.

  8. Ohhhhh…. you make me miss Havana something fierce.
    Wonderful captures of the life on the Malecon.

    1. It’s hard not to miss Havana when you not there. Thanks for your kind words.

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