Life is similar to a bus ride, or in the case of Sandy’s Cuban family, a guagua ride. (pronounced waa waa)
The journey began when Sandy rented a guagua to take us to Havana for an evening of entertainment. You see, her extended family is so large and no one owns a car, so it was impossible to treat them to an evening of fun in Havana without renting a guagua.
We all piled into the guagua and Sandy counted heads to make sure we didn’t leave anyone behind. Ron broke out in song and soon everyone was singing, “Vamos a Havana en un guagua”…over and over again. Then Sandy sang “The wheels on the bus go round and round” to the delight of the children.
La Forteleza de San Carlos de la cabaña sits on a hill overlooking the harbor of Havana. The views were spectacular. It was built in 1774 by the Spaniards to control the access of the Havana port.
In 1959, Che Guavera took possession of the fortress on his triumphant conquest of Havana during the fall of the dictator Batista.
Today, soldiers dressed in 18th Century uniforms fire a cannon over Havana bay at 9 pm sharp every evening. The cannon used to signal the end of the day and the time to close the city gates. But, now it is only a tourist attraction.
Ernestico was in charge of buying the tickets for the performance. Sandy gave him the CUCs, or tourist dollars, and we waited at the gate. A few minutes later he returned and said he couldn’t buy Cuban tickets with tourist money. So, there was a mad scramble through pockets and purses to find Cuban pesos to buy the tickets.
Meanwhile, we were told to stand in the center of the family and not to talk. If anyone found out that we were entering with Cuban tickets instead of tourist tickets, they could be in a lot of trouble.
A tourist pays 8 CUCs to watch a 5 minute show. That is comparable to $8 US dollars. A Cuban pays 8 pesos, like 8 cents, to watch the show.
It was a good thing we got in for 8 pesos because we couldn’t watch the cannon fired into the bay. The cannon ceremony was packed with people. Good places with excellent views were difficult to find. So, I stood by the fort wall and took pictures of the harbor and the cruse ship lit up like a giant Christmas tree.
The kids enjoyed posing on the cannon the most. There were trinkets for sale in the street leading to the courtyard of the fort, but no one had any money to buy them.
Riding the guagua was our biggest treat of the day. Believe me when I say that it was a big deal for Sandy’s family. They would never get to experience the whole family riding a guagua together.
In Sandy’s family, the wheels of the bus will always go round and round.