Cuba is one of those places that is largely a cliché to most Americans. When I was growing up, they were the big evil in the western hemisphere, home to communist boogie men planning to infect civilization.
More recently, as relations have warmed, the island acquired the image of a land frozen in time, full of classic American cars, old buildings and plenty of rum and cigars.
During a week-long wonderful, enlightening, inspiring photographic journey to Cuba, we, of course, learned that the culture and life of the island are far more complex and interesting.
I was surprised we didn’t see more of these cars
broken down on the side of the road.
For most Americans, travel to Cuba is still not a straightforward proposition, due to the continuing, anachronistic embargo. With few exceptions, the State Department requires visitors from the US to participate in “people-to-people” programs, interacting with artists, performers, and community leaders as a way of making connections between our two cultures. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Even with US restrictions, Cuba has seen an increase in visitors over the past year or so. This cruise ship was docked in Havana for several days during our visit, dropping 700 people into the city at one time. Several people mentioned that the Cuban people look forward to more visitors but that the country’s infrastucture is really not ready to handle it. And they have absolutely no interest in seeing Starbuck and other American fast food stores. I can’t blame them.
You gotta put them somewhere while we eat and drink.
As I said, this was a photography trip and we received some excellent guidance, both on making better pictures and on the country from our leaders. We traveled with Road Scholar, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in learning expeditions to all parts of the world. This was our first trip with them and just from this experience, I would go with them again. I’m not going into the mechanics of the trip in these posts but if you’re interested in details, feel free to contact me directly.
I will have more to say about our experiences and the wonderful people we met in later posts. For now, I’ll just offer a few more images. Many more can be found in these three flickr albums.
The skyline of Havana as seen from the fortress El Morro,
built in 1589 to defend the harbor below.
Near Trinidad, on the south side of the island, the scenery was spectacular.
Our leader, Essdras, seemed to know people everywhere we went.
But this group was especially friendly.