I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to join the National Geographic Expedition People to People Tour of Cuba. This particular tour enabled us to have direct interaction with people from many walks of life with many stories to tell. Cuba is an amazing visual dichotomy depicting old and new that includes not only architecture but lifestyle as well. I hope these photos tell the story.
On the road from the airport into Havana is a very prominent sign expressing strong sentiments about the embargo. Maybe it will be lifted soon.
It was my pleasure to meet everyone, to be invited into some of their homes and to be able to photograph them.
With more money trickling into Cuba, car owners are able to restore their classic cars but there is still an overall problem keeping them running. Cubans can buy and sell cars now within the country but it is not likely they will be able to be exported. Time will tell.
Che is a national hero among Cubans and his image appears throughout the country on walls, tiles, clothes and buildings. His passion led him to be revered and reviled. If you are interested, Motorcycle Diaries is a good film to see how he grew into his revolutionary mindset.
From murals throughout the city to formal instruction in many of the arts, Havana is filled with creativity. The Plaza de San Francisco currently features statues of cats that symbolize friendship and cultural exchanges. The lady on a rooster is the work of Roberto Fabelo and is the topic of many discussions as to its meaning. Any thoughts?
Ernest Hemingway used to keep his fishing boat docked at the village of Cojímar, east of Havana. Today there is not much notoriety left but it is essential to the area fishermen. A quick glance shows that they are only allowed to have small fishing boats – ones that are not likely to make it across the Florida Straits.
The best way to experience Havana is walking through its streets. It is lively, sensual, noisy, dusty, full of crumbling buildings and, even better, full of surprises.
- Old cannons have been turned upside down in the street to block traffic.
- Many streets and buildings are being repaired in preparation for President Obama’s visit.
- They spray throughout for mosquitos to keep Zika and other viruses at bay; but the fumes are pretty bad.
- Take a peek in doorways for a glimpse into hard living in old buildings.
- Bicitaxis are the way to get around quickly if not hazardously. A few members of my group can speak to that.
- Dogs are everywhere in the city. They have been known to take up with a group tour and protect us as we walked around the city.
And so we left Cuba behind with our hearts and minds open to the spirit of the people we met.
Hasta Siempre, Cuba.