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You can’t see the secret world of Havana’s rooftops from the street. But get high enough and look out across the skyline and it’s there, a whole other city in the air.
It’s a hidden village of makeshift apartments, chicken coops and tiny vegetable gardens, where boys in flip-flops fly homemade kites and shirtless men play dominoes in the sea breeze, with drying laundry flapping around them.
Street-level Havana can be noisy and smelly, but rooftop Havana is bathed in sunlight and flushed clean by the ocean air. It’s beyond the reach of prying eyes, a place for romantic trysts or some much-needed solitude.
“Cubans are nosey, man,” said Yordan Alonso, 25, father of three, a part-time barber, part-time bicycle taxi driver and lifelong roof-dweller four stories above San Ignacio street in Old Havana. “Up here, nobody bothers you,” he said.
Alonso’s building is a half-block from the city’s Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza), at the unmarked border between cheerful, tourist Havana and crowded, crumbling Havana, into which visitors rarely stray. This part of the city waits more impatiently than any, maybe, for the day the U.S. tourists and investors come rushing back, to catch it before it falls down. ….