Cuba is a land of creativity, contradictions, and complexity. After eight days there, I’m still processing the experience, and probably will for a very long time. (Cuba is a photographer’s dream. To go directly to the photos in my Cuba Journal, take this link.)
Our small group tour included “people to people” interaction with many local artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, ecologists, schoolchildren and more during our travels four areas across the island.
We spent several days in Havana, which is celebrating its 500th birthday this spring. The city is a time capsule of transportation and architecture. Cuba is a country still deeply entrenched in a complex political situation. Nevertheless, innovation and invention are everywhere and the spirit of the Cuban people is inspiring.
There are many helpful guides for Americans who want to travel to Cuba, and it’s important to read them before you plan a visit there. For over 50 years Cuba was essentially off limits to Americans thanks to a 1962 trade embargo that made spending money on the island tantamount to treason.
This all changed in 2014, when the Obama administration announced a reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, to quote travel guide Andrew Scott, “This opportunity will not last forever. The influx of foreigners is rapidly transforming Cuba’s economic and social realities. Meanwhile, political uncertainties in the U.S. make it impossible to know if the borders will remain open.”
I am so grateful that I visited Cuba when I did. For artists, it is rich with visual imagery – and Cuban artists are prolific and skilled, particularly in printmaking. I spoke to several of them about their processes and vision.
One thing we didn’t talk about was Decreto 349, a new decree by the Cuban government that criminalizes independent artists and places severe restrictions on cultural activity not authorized by the Ministry of Culture. You can read more about that here.
The Internet just become available in Cuba two months ago, and vendors were selling WiFi cards everywhere we went. It is going to be extremely interesting to see what effect that kind of global access produces.
I have a lot more reading to do about Cuba, but in the meantime, the photos from the trip continue to inspire me. Here are some of my favorites, presented in a photojournal on my website. I hope these digital snapshots express all the reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with Cuba and its people.