My first reaction to Havana was shock. Look right and it looked as though a bomb had gone off, look left and tourists were wandering down a beautifully restored Caribbean inspired Spanish colonial street. We spent the majority of our time in old Havana, which is the landscape you envision when you think of Cuba. However, there are 3 million people who live in this city and I have very few photos to show for the rest of the city. Only 3 days in the city forced us to focus our attention.
Cubans have to be incredibly innovative with the resources they have and their lifestyle is sustainable by necessity. Cars are a patchwork of parts, abandoned spaces have been repurposed and diverse cuisine derived from the same five available ingredients. I walked past people stitching up shoes and repainting bicycle wheels, ate banana chips from a paper cone that was previously an office form and patted dogs wearing baby shirts in place of collars. We found the Cuban people to be very proud of their country, and really in need of money and resources. The average Cuban makes $25 a month and only in 2010 did the government start allowing people to have their own businesses and the chance to make a bit more. Couple this with no access to information or literature and you start to sort of understand why Cubans might flee on a raft across the ocean. There's really no other way to leave. My hope for the Cuban people is that they can preserve and harness the rich,innovative and sustainable culture they've built over the last 60 years to lift them out of economic despondency. When the US embargo lifts and they are flooded with American brands and tourists will they be able to preserve the reason tourist want to come to their country in the first place (to go back in time) while still improving their livelihood? I'm rooting for them!!!
Of course I have a million more photos but you gotta stop somewhere. Can't post them all. So if anybody wants to see a slideshow come find me! ha!
It's actually fairly simple to go to Cuba legally now. Find a travel agent, fill out a visa form saying your are traveling for 'good will towards people' and off you go! It's pricey to get there but it's worth it. :)