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Sunday, 13 September 2009

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Ideal setting for 'The old man and the sea'

Continued from last week

It was located at the very edge of the high bank and below the sea lapped against the foundation of the hotel. From the terrace one could contemplate the horizon, in the wide bay, with a view of two large wooden piers that stuck out into the wide cove, and the taverns and canteens and the famous inns of the village, with their loud nights of song, boleros, waltzes and foxtrots after the open-air concert that were organised on the hilltop, near the church and Municipal Palace, had already ended.


Chandran Rutnam with a statue of Hemingway in the background

They were fun festivals but the most dazzling celebrations were on the weekend under the winnings of the Filgueras Hotel (a little more than one hundred meters from Augustins tavern) where Aida orchestra played. It was beautiful to hear the charming voices of Andresito el Habanero, singing boleros and other songs.

The finest parties, nevertheless, always took place in a precious little salon in the Miramar Hotel. It was the favourite place of Prince Rispoli, of poets, and of illustrious travellers who passed through the town.

There were parties with piano and violin music, parties that turned into great adventures.

Such was the town, the pier, with its hotels and taverns, in the last splendour of the 1930s. Then the World War would come, leaving a pile of ruins, many stories, and wild women.

COJIMAR

A charming village, once inhabited by fishermen. Today many writers and artist have settled here enjoying peaceful life. In the 1950s, however, there was only one author to be seen on the streets of Cojimar-Ernest Hemingway.


A Havana cigar smoker

The local fishermen were his friends and he played dominoes and drank a lot of rum listening to their fishy stories. He made this village the setting for his famous novel, 'The Old Man and the Sea". In the small square named after Hemingway, there is a monumental featuring a bust of the author, a faithful copy of the one in El Floridita.

It is here, thanks to the author's fishermen friends, who donated anchors, hooks and tools to play for the casting.

Nearby, on the sea front is a small fort, which was built at the Eastern coast defence point of Havana in 1942. It was designed by Giovan Batista Antonelli, architect of the Castillo del Morro. Cojimar is also the home of Hamingway's favourite restaurant, La Terraza. It is still elegant and as well run as in Hemingway's time. The wooden bar is comfortable and a lovely spot to have a drink.

Midnight at Plaza DE Armas

It s a warm midnight. The Plaza is illuminated by lamps. A couple strolls along the Malecon. They stop to watch the sea crash upon the rocks below with explosive urgency.

The couple locked in an irresistible embrace, their eyes closed and their passion intense as they feel the turbulence of the sea within them. They hurriedly and impatiently head towards the pink pastel hotel in Obispo Street.

A sensuous sound of a tres (a small guitar), and a lonely voice fills the quietness of the Plaza. The couple pauses and slowly follows the music to the singer leaning against the foot of the statue in the park. They inhale the essence of this night in Havana and then quicken their pace and get lost in the darkness of the colonnades and the distance heart beat of an African drum.

It is surety a great night in Havana.

Cuban cigars

The cigar is an inextricable part of Cuba's culture, history and even, for some, its essence. It is known that cigars were used by the native Indians.

After Columbus' voyage, tobacco, regarded in Europe as having therapeutic qualities, was imported to Spain. However, the first smokers were imprisoned, because people believed that cigar smoke produced diabolical effects.

Even so, tobacco grew in popularity and was later exported to other European nations, when government agencies were set up to maintain a monopoly over the product.

After the revolution, the US embargo has a serious effect on the international sate of cigars, but since the 1990's the fashion for cigar smoking has given a boost to sales.

Tobacco (cohiba) was used by Cuban Indians during religious rites to invoke the gods. They either inhaled the smoke through a tubed instrument called 'tabaco' or smoke the rolled leaves.

The core of the cigar, the inside is called the tripa consisting of filter leaves. In hand -made cigars, the tripa consists of tobacco leaves which have been selected in order to obtain a particular flavour.The capote is the binder leaf that holds the inner part together and keeps it compact. The capa is the wrapper leaf on the outside of the cigar.

It gives its smooth velvety look as well as its colour.The cigars can be either hand-made or machine-made. With hand -made cigars , the inside consists of whole tobacco leaves, while machine-made cigars are made up of leaves that are blended and then shredded.

We were only interested in the hand-made cigars and visited the Pantages factory by the Capital building. Cigar manufacturing is a real skill that Cubans hand down from generation to generation.Firstly, the capote (the wrapper teat) is placed on a tablet, the filler leaves that will consist of the core of the cigar three leaves from different part of the plat are chosen.

The leaves are rolled. The capote is wrapped around the filler leaves and then covered by capa which is smooth and regular which determined the appearance of the cigar.

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