As Americans we are not meant to go to Cuba in order to bask on the beach, frolic in the waves, get sunburned, get sand between our toes and drink mojitos.
Only Canadians and Germans get to do that.
As Americans we went to Cuba to see Art and Architecture, of which we saw a lot. Serendipitously, the art studio of Norberto and Jannette was nearby a beach, so we went there for lunch and the possibility of plunging into the warm Caribbean waves.
It was a sirenic possibility, until we saw the Portuguese men o’war. These bluebottles are marine cnidarians, and though I have always thought otherwise, they are not jellyfish, but siphonophores. Their gas-filled bladders – pneumatophores [I am loving this vocabulary] - are bright blue and tempting. My impulse –thankfully thwarted - was to pick one up, pop its distended bladder and bring home the deflated blue sac to show my grandchildren. That would have been a terrible idea, as their venom can remain potent for hours and even days after the dead creatures have washed up on this lovely tropical beach. And then I would have suffered an extremely painful dermatitis, caused by contact with urticariogenic tentacles; and possibly even developed a fever, shock and then died.
I did not touch the bluebottles, or only once, and very slightly.
We didn’t go swimming either, because lots of Portuguese men o’war washed up on a beach indicate even more Portuguese men o’war are in the water, floating this way and that, along with the winds, currents and tides.
(Not my foot, but a good one for scale, and of course the colors are lovely.)