The dark skies gathering in the distance over Havana may have looked ominous but I didn’t worry. I had a free day – some delicious time off from my Cuba photography tour group – to explore more of this fascinating and historical city on my own. Just me, my camera, good walking shoes, a map & guidebook – and an umbrella just in case!
The weather – being the end of May – was hot and humid. After walking along Havana’s famed and scenic Malecon (sea-side avenue) for quite a while, I turned away from the ocean to walk some back streets. I was on my way – but certainly in no hurry! – to visit Callejón de Hamel, a two-block-long alley of funky street murals, brightly painted buildings and sculptures that looked really cool in the pictures.
But first, I was anxious to get away from Havana’s tourist zones and walk through some of its residential streets, witnessing the daily life of its citizens. I also loved seeing and photographing the colorful, often crumbling old buildings of Havana and vintage American cars from the 1940s and 50s still plying the streets – both well-known classic Havana icons.
As I walked down one of the streets, I was drawn to a friendly Cuban woman hanging out with an adorable little girl in the doorway of one of the homes. Naturally, I had to stop to chat (luckily speaking some Spanish) and ask if I could take their picture. I learned from Maria that this captivatingly beautiful little girl was her 2-year-old granddaughter Eliany.
It was now around noon. Right after taking my “doorway photo” (one of my favorites!), it began to sprinkle. Maria invited me to join her and Eliany as they headed back across the street to their home. Good thing I said yes! It wasn’t long before the sprinkles turned into a full-blown tropical storm with pounding rain. And a short time later, thunder and lightning began to rattle the skies.
Safely Rescued & Waiting Out the Storm
Maria del Carmen had saved me! Looking back out through her door, I watched the rain come down and the street fill up with water. Right then, a young woman appeared in the doorway, completely drenched to the bone. She turned out to be Maria’s daughter and Eliany’s mother. She was returning from school at the University of Habana, where she was a pharmacy student (having already completed three years of the 4-year program).
Following right behind her were two more soaked people – tourists she had also rescued. Renata and her 15-year-old son were from the Czech Republic, near Prague. They were on a “reward vacation” for the son, with plans to spend two days in Havana before heading to the beautiful beach resort of Varadero. This was their first day in Havana – quite the welcome to Cuba!
So, for the next hour and a quarter, we happily sat in Maria del Carmen’s home and waited out the storm. Joining us was a family cousin and uncle, who had already been there in the home. We all socialized and, of course, I took more photos to remember the experience. We were enjoying an impromptu Habana Rain Party!
This sweet Cuban family was quite matter of fact about it all. Apparently, heavy rains like this happen a lot during Cuba’s rainy season – which lasts from May to October. And, they just happen to live at the bottom of a long street that slopes downward and fills with knee-high water during these heavy rains. In fact, the water can rise so much that it starts flowing through the front door, like it did this day!
But, no worries! They have a concrete tile floor and can quickly move non-waterproof items like their electric fan up onto their sofa bench chairs. After about 45 minutes of the downpour, the rain began to lessen and the water in the streets quickly began to recede. The menfolk of the family opened the front door and began their living room “water extraction” duty, effectively using a broom and tall plastic water pails.
Safe Again to Venture Back Out
About 15 minutes later, it was finally safe for people to venture back outside. The streets were still wet with lots of puddles, but no longer flooded. And only very light sprinkles remained. The time had come to say goodbye to our most gracious host family. We took some final group photos. Then Renata, her son and I shared our heartfelt thanks to them for being our Cuban Angels and rescuing us from the merciless Rain Gods.
Looking back on this very eventful day, I felt so grateful for having met Maria del Carmen and her family – not only to be rescued from a Havana rainstorm but to personally experience the incredible vibrant spirit and hospitality of the Cuban people!
I can certainly see why Cuba is such a desired destination! We travelers who are fortunate enough to visit the country all rave about the wonderful Cuban people!
Check out my Photo Essay: Havana Cuba – Colorful, Vibrant and Alluring to see some of my favorite photos from Havana.