The Joy of Fishing on the Malecón
By: Adalys Pilar
It is a place that affords a magnificent view of the Castillo del Morro fortress and of ships as they enter and depart: Havana's seawall, the Malecón, runs along a beautiful coastal highway, attracting musicians, passers-by, tireless travelers, and especially fishermen.
While the joy of fishing is the only thing that matters for many, others spend their time and energy to take on the specific challenge of fishing along the seawall, often with improvised fishing rods and bait.
“I am 86 years and I have been fishing here since I was 9,” José Luis Báez told this reporter. “Now that am retired I come here whenever I can, always for fun and taking in the sun,” he added, line in hands, without turning his eyes from the bay.
Catches are not plentiful, but “on some days I have caught fish weighing more than 20 pounds,” he said. Another frequent visitor to the Malecón is Héctor Sánchez, who learned how to make forecasts by observing the sea. From December to February, there are less fish to be caught, but in March, the seawaters change and fish start moving from one place to another, he said.
“We must pay attention to the seasons and tides. Here, we catch roncos (Haemulidae family), pompanos, and red snappers, which are generally small or medium-sized,” he said.
Pelicans and other sea birds enliven the view of the coastline, which provides a bridge among people of different cultures.
On a recent afternoon, two young women of different nationalities were taking a rest after long walks through museums and plazas in the nearby Habana Vieja district, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982.
“I am a traveler; I have traveled around the world. I have been almost everywhere, from the United States to Argentina and Chile, the Antarctic, the Galapagos Islands, Asia, Africa, and Cuba, which I like a lot,” said Dragana Nicole of Serbia, sitting on the seawall. Nearby was Rosa Margarita Sánchez of Colombia, who was on her first visit to the island.
A quartet playing guitars, claves and maracas was singing music by the late and internationally renowned Cuban musician Compay Segundo, including songs that refer to the Malecón, as waves splashed against the rocks below.
While some prefer to gaze at boats anchored near the coast, others enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of Havana and the diverse vehicles that make their way along the highway, including the so-called “almendrones,” or classic autos. There are also horse-drawn carriages similar to those from colonial times, and a little tour “train” pulled by a jeep “locomotive.”
Along the Malecón, you can spot people on romantic daytime dates, surrounded by pedestrians and street vendors who make their stops as well.
If the Malecón could speak, it would surely have many things to tell, said a seasoned fisherman who was standing near the wall, noting that the first section of the seven-kilometre seawall began to be built back in 1901.
A long train of stories, sighs, and dreams are silently guarded by Havana's Malecón, a window open to the world.