Hundreds of Cubans visit the Spanish ship 'Elcano' in the port of Havana

Hundreds of Cubans visit the Spanish ship ‘Elcano’ in the port of Havana

“Who is the last for the boat?” A young woman accompanied by two children shouted this Saturday morning. In the long queue, some carry umbrellas and others cross the sidewalk to take refuge from the strong May sun, while waiting to see the training ship of the Spanish Navy, Juan Sebastian de Elcanowhich made landfall last Thursday morning in the port of Havana.

Getting on a boat is no small thing. Despite living on an island, very few Cubans have a boat and if they do have one, it is no more than a small boat without a motor or an old inflated truck tube. The ban on using yachts or boats to enjoy a walk on the sea is still in place for nationals after decades of being imposed.

So the opening of elcano To the curious gaze of visitors, it was quite an event in a city that once had a vibrant port where sailors, merchants and buccaneers shaped the identity of the Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana. Since then much has happened and now the boats are seen as the way to escape from the country.

“Tremendous sails, this really picks up speed from here to Miami,” joked a boy who managed to get on the ship after more than two hours in line. “After I dialed I could have gone to Coppelia and stood in line to have an ice cream, come back and it still wouldn’t have been my turn,” he commented.

Customs employees first boarded the four-masted vessel to take photos with the Spanish sailors. laughs, selfie and jokes began this Saturday’s day on a ship that at night was the only lighted point in a semi-dark bay and a city that was also in semi-darkness.

The police controlled the long queue early on and there were also vendors who wanted to take advantage of the crowds to offer roses, candies, sweet cookies and whatever product they could propose in the middle of an area where, until a couple of years ago, the most appetizing were foreigners, but now merchants must be content to sell their trinkets in Cuban pesos.

After long hours of waiting, the first groups began to go up to the elcano and so a river of people continued to flow, little by little, to the imposing structure that shone and on which the Spanish and Cuban flags waved. When the sun went down a bit, already in the afternoon, the woman with the two children that she marked in the queue before noon managed to get on the ship.

“We left Cartagena in Spain, we passed through Cape Verde, we went to Puerto Rico and from there we came here,” he explained to 14ymedio a Spanish sailor. “From here we go to Miami and then we go to Santander, that’s going to take about 28 days,” said the man while nervous laughter ran through those who listened to his explanation. “It goes to Miami, asere, to Miami,” repeated a young man who went along with several friends to the guided tour.

Although the ship is in the Havana bay, certain breezes of freedom are felt on its deck. “This is Spanish territory, here it is different and you feel it,” says a woman who has gone upstairs with a baby in her arms. The sailor described what it is like to climb to the top of the mast when you are in the middle of the sea. “It gives you a respect that you shit, look where you look there is only water,” she warns.

The queue to enter the 'Elcano' seen from its deck.  (14ymedio)

The people, pending his explanations, observed the lines, the knots, caressed the edges of the bow as if they were on the back of an animal. The children asked their parents questions. “And have they brought all the food?”, a teenager blurted out to the Spanish guide. “Here in Havana we don’t load food, but in Miami we are going to load a large load,” he replied.

His clarification sparked a string of comments. “What are they going to load here, if there is nothing here”, “luckily, because this is on fire”, “better, better stock up there”, several of the group were heard saying, following the sailor’s explanations. “We have Wi-Fi internet but it’s not very good,” the man clarified. “Ah, they are like the Cubans with Etecsa,” commented one and laughter broke out.

“On other Navy ships it goes much better because the antennas are at the highest point, but not here, there is a lot of signal loss with the rigs and the sails. Here you can send messages, call, but watching Netflix is ​​almost impossible” , reinforced the man. So he continued on the deck, while the Cubans followed him with wide eyes and that gesture in the mouth of which he is savoring an experience with which he has long dreamed.

The tour ended and it was the turn of another group of those waiting in line. The line continued to grow outside the ship. It is not every day that Cubans can once again feel that they are above the waters, above their sea.

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