Havana, Cuba: Latino Sports sent a special crew to the island nation of Cuba for the coverage of the 500 years of Havana and though our angle was and is sports, we were interested in seeing how the hoopla of dressing Havana for a 500 year old Gala would include, or exclude sports. Noemi Santana, Blanca Canino-Vigo and Francisco Lugoviña were excited to be here. This was the first trip here for Noemi and Francisco. This was Blanca’s second trip. I have been coming here since, 1978 together we were all ready for this assignment.
We learned quickly that sports in Cuba is too much part of the culture and politics to be obscured from any major happening. We also learned that the major events were basically focused in Havana. The rest of the island was business as usual and sports around the island were taking place as they would have everyday. Baseball was also commemorating its 56 Annual Baseball Series with many exciting games and surprises taking place that we will report on future articles.
It would be an injustice for us to be here in Havana and not report on the incredible events we witnessed in the Capital. Cuba was indeed well prepared and organized for this gala. Over five hundred thousand spectators attended the opening ceremony with music, fireworks and a visit from Cuban president, Manuel Díaz–Canal. As customary we met many other Latin Americans who had travelled here for the occasion. We met and made friends with Mexicans, Uruguayans and Puerto Ricans from the island (unlike us from the Diaspora) among others.
We were all pleasantly surprised to be able to see so much culture just walking through the streets of Havana. One thing we all learned was that Cuba is also music and similar to Puerto Rican they might be going through very difficult periods but that does not stop them like us Puerto Rican’s from having fun.
Just about every restaurant, or outdoor bar had a live band playing. Bands made up of 3, 5, 7, members. Youth bands, all female bands, seniors in their advance age still singing and sounding as good as any performer much younger. Our most treasured cultural encounter was while walking in the early evening through the streets of Old Havana we heard a more classical sound that was not the usual Timba and Salsa beats we were use to hearing. As we walked looking for that sound we came across an open-air concert. We were treated to an incredible opera and ballet that would have easily been a feature in New York’s Carnegie Hall, or Lincoln Center. We were all pleasantly treated to something that was totally unexpected, but appreciated by our entire crew.
That was our welcome to Havana, 500 years of struggle and though still struggling they don’t skimp on their culture and sports.
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