Habana Vieja by Emma Burton

During our time in Cuba, we spent lots of time visiting Habana Vieja, which was a taxi ride away from our neighborhood of Vedado. Habana Vieja is full of brightly colored old taxis, plazas with gigantic cathedrals, and parks with statues of José Martí. We even saw a little park full of cats. Our tour guide, Fidel, told us that the Cuban government gives the dogs and cats in the streets of Havana their shots and vaccines, so they can be healthy for the residents of Habana Vieja and useful for pest control. My friend, John, and I, took a taxi called a coco to visit the house of one of my friends who used to live in Cuba but now lives in Miami. We got to see a lot of Habana Vieja, including walls with incredible street art and lots of breathtaking architecture.

We’d heard about a sustainable clothing store called “Clandestina,” so we visited there and bought tote bags and T-shirts and talked with the owner about his clothing line. He said that it’s the first clothing label coming out of Havana, and they even have an online store and a storefront in North Carolina. One of my favorite things we did on a trip to Habana Vieja was visiting the national book fair. It took place on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and there were thousands of people gathered. There were ruins of an old fort that my friends and I had fun exploring, and we saw a lot of young Cuban locals hanging out, playing music from a boombox, and doing flips off the walls of the fort. It was a great place to people watch, and interesting to see how people our age dressed and did their hair and what kind of music they listened to. Before we left, John got his hair cut and dyed in a style that we saw frequently around Habana Vieja and Vedado. Maybe the new style will catch on in Charleston!

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