The Old Man and the Sea
The former fishing village of Cojímar, 16 km (10 miles) from Old Havana, is popular for its Hemingway connection, but now it is a concrete mess. The seafront took a battering in the 2008 hurricanes and the wharf where Hemingway kept his boat, the Pilar, was smashed. Hemingway used the village as the setting for The Old Man and the Sea and celebrated his Nobel Prize here in 1954.
There is a bust of the author made from boat propellers donated by local fishermen and housed in a gazebo by the cube-shaped Spanish fortress, now occupied by the military. Just off the highway before Cojímar is the Villa Pan Americana, a complex of sports facilities, apartments and a hotel built for the 1991 regional games. The volunteers who took on the huge task of building the complex now live in the athletes’ apartments, though some are still used by athletes competing at the nearby stadium (Estadio Panamericano).
Across an inlet to the east of Cojímar lies Alamar, a suburb built by volunteers, known as micro-brigades, after the revolution. Originally planned for 40,000 people, it now has closer to 100,000, mostly in a depressing array of five-story walk-up apartment blocks. Despite or because of the grim surroundings, a strong musical culture has sprung up in Alamar. Many young bands rehearse in this dingy neighborhood, which stages an annual international rap festival, held in August at the Casa de la Cultura de Alamar.