Woke early this morning — with a red swollen face and neck. Not hives, but what? Am I allergic to Havana, I sure hope not. Out of my first-aid kit, I reach for the hydrocortisone cream and slather liberally before heading off to breakfast. Breakfast may well become my favorite meal in Cuba, but time (and the over usage of salt) will tell.
The MLK Center is involved with distributing medicines, presenting HIV prevention programs, and housing projects. It also runs training workshops to empower social involvement. The Center is founded on three organizing principles (or pillars): the Cuban Ecumenical Movement, Popular Education, and International Solidarity.
We pass the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a 1930s hotel designed in an odd mixture of architectural styles including Sevillian, Roman, Moorish and Art Deco. Originally it was operated by the American managers of the Plaza Hotel. Over the hotel's history it has had many political and celebrity guests from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the USSR. I even have photographs of my in-laws holidaying here in the 1950s and sipping rum drinks on the terrace!
After walking around Old Havana photographing and peering into shops, Liv and I head to La Mina for lunch. The restaurant is housed in what was a former bishops residence in the 16th and 17th centuries. It's menu is Creole-influenced and caters to tourists.
One of the experiences I hoped to have was to visit a house where the Santeria, an Afro-Cuban spiritual religion, is celebrated, I had no idea that this stop would bring me that much closer. While Quisicuaba is both nonprofit and non-prosyletizing, it is forthcoming about the fact that it is highly attuned to its community's spiritual needs, in addition to its cultural and materials needs. In fact, the structure and function of the organization is based on respect for personal identity and its moral code is derived from Santeria. With roots in Yoruba believes transplanted by Africans who were brought to Cuba, mostly as slaves, the code has 16 commandments including: "don't say what you don't know; be humble and to egocentric; don't deceive your fellow human beings; always respect the weak and teat them with much respect."
One woman, in particular, catches my eye and we "bond" over a knowing smile, touching of our hearts, and the blowing of a kiss. As the beautiful woman I connected with earlier and I say our good-byes, she says something to our guide Héctor, who tells me we are invited next door to her house and that she is a Santerios. There certainly are no coincidences in this divine Universe!