Today we started off going to the Christopher Columbus cemetery/necropolis. He was initially buried/interred here, but at some point they moved him to Seville (where I saw his resting place in 2014). It was an incredible cemetery. It is 140 acres, is still active with 40 burials a day on average, and was initially sectioned based on class. So we were told that the main avenue was all the wealthy people. And they definitely had ornate and massive graves.
We then caught the hop on-hop off bus and rode that throughout Havana. It took longer than anticipated, but it was a nice way to see the city and was a welcomed break from walking. It was a double-decker style bus, so sitting up top was nice, except we were frequently ducking for trees!
After the tour, we walked through parts of Habana Vieja and, thanks to a slow and unhelpful restaurant, we had street pizza for lunch. I had heard about it and wanted to have it, but it wasn’t until then that I saw everyone with it. It was a decent sized pizza that cost the equivalent of $.60. That’s right. Sixty cents. Insane. We continued our walk through Habana Vieja near the water before catching a taxi back to our casa to get ready for the baseball game.
The game was amazing. Hands down the most authentic thing we did on the trip. There were very few tourists, so it was an awesome opportunity to see and interact with Cubans doing something they love. And it cost the equivalent of $1 to get in (I think It’s cheaper for the locals). The game was the Industriales (the Havana team) against Granma. Granma is the best team in the league and won the championship last year. It showed. It was a blowout. The gentleman sitting next to us spoke English, so we learned some things from him. He definitely seemed irritated that all the good players leave for the US, but he also lamented the fact that the Cuban teams don’t pay any money for playing. He said it’s basically voluntary.
There was a moment of silence before the game, which neither Mallory nor myself knew what it was for, but we stood for it. Then they played the national anthem and Mallory asked me if I was going to take a knee out of protest for communism, but I’m respectful so I didn’t. At 5:58 pm (the game started at 4) everyone just stopped what they were doing and stood and faced the direction of the flag. It was dark, so we couldn’t see what they were doing. About a minute later, everyone went back to what they were doing. We were so confused. Our new friend told us that they take the flag down at 6pm and people must show it respect. He complained that people talk during it (though I didn’t hear any), which is not showing respect. He did not like this. Mallory and I talked about the NFL protests and what a Cuban would think of kneeling during an anthem to protest the police’s power. Sounds absolutely freaking ridiculous sitting in Cuba and contemplating this. I cannot even imagine what a Cuban would say if we tried to explain that to them.
Anyway, immediately preceding the flag ceremony, our new friend had been arguing with Douchebag #2 (of 3) sitting two rows in front of us. I don’t know what they were arguing about, but Mallory said it was something about players leaving for the US. After the flag ceremony they immediately started up again and this time I could distinctly hear the name “Yasiel Puig”. Several times. I had already discussed Puig with our new friend, so I knew he hated him. Basically said he’s not a Cuban. But our new friend then announced to everyone around us that we were Americans and had had no idea what they were doing with the flag. Awkward.
The atmosphere at the game was awesome. And loud. So so loud. Tons of noisemakers. So many similarities, but yet so many differences. The vendors were smoking cigarettes while walking up and down the stands, for example. (Smoking is ok everywhere here…everywhere.) One of the things they were selling were buns with some kind of shredded meat. I wasn’t sure if it was chicken or pork, but I went to get one. It cost $.20. Yep, a sandwich for twenty cents. They put some stuff on the meat, but I don’t know what. It was good!
We left after the 5th inning…it was 13-3. Industriales had been through at least 6 pitchers. 3 in the first inning alone. Our new friend had told us that there’s basically a 10-run rule. Which was surprising, but Alexis (in Vinales) told me that if the game goes to extra innings, they get to automatically put 2 men on base. Any 2 runners you want. But then if the game goes to the 11th, you have to go in the batting order. At least I think that’s how he described it.
After the game we returned to our casa to freshen up and attempted to get dinner at a paladar, which is a private restaurant run by a family in an extension of their home. It was definitely an experience. Mallory is a vegetarian and it was family-style eating, all of which included meat. So we decided to get two appetizers instead. One of which was “brusquetas”. It had cheese and onions on it. Cheese. That tasted like butter. I couldn’t even eat an entire one. I think I realized the difference today when that was on a menu along with “bruschetta”. Weird. The Sangria was good, though!
We then went to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano. That was real interesting. It is an art gallery/nightclub. Hard to explain. It is enormous. The art varied from fashion and jewelry, to paintings, to photos, to abstract, to music, and to dance. It was so very weird. As we were standing near some guys “rapping”, we happened to see our professor friend from the night before. Random! He said he did not know what was going on, that it was weird, and that no one knew what the “rappers” were saying because it was an indistinguishable language! So funny! We hung out with him for the rest of the time. He knew of a concert starting in one of the “naves”, so we went there. It turned out to be a Cuban classic rock cover band. Yeah, I will let that sink in. We were laughing hysterically when the first song they sang was Billy Joel! Fantastic. We had talked about getting a cab with David, but we ended up losing him. It was a fun night at a place that I felt horribly uncomfortable, so it was reassuring that he felt that way, too!