Ten Days in Cuba
People of CubaLeft: A bodybuilder in Havana; Middle: Boys play a game in Old Havana; Right: A Vinales Valley farmer offers a cigar to one of the touring group.
words and images by Warren Wilson
One aspect of foreign travel I enjoy is seeing how other people go about their daily lives. Are the streets filled with cars? Bicycles? Do they buy their bread from a street vendor? Often, their lives are much more different than mine. And, this is what I find intriguing.
I recall, while growing up in the late-1950’s through the mid-1960’s, the ratcheting-up of the hostility between Russia and the U.S.—the Cold War. Those were scary times. In school, we practiced getting under (hiding?) our desks. I suppose we thought that would protect us from a nuclear explosion. Most likely, it was intended to give us the peace of mind that we were protected from all harm.
In particular, I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. A tiny island just to the southeast of Florida was commanding all the news of the day. The Russians were reportedly installing missiles with nuclear warheads, an act that the U.S. found threatening.
Once this crisis was over, the U.S. placed an embargo on Cuba. For many years, these two countries glared at each other from not-too-distant shores. But, as we all know, nothing lasts forever and the situation began loosening up to a point where they began a cultural exchange.
That’s where I step in. My desire was to make it to Cuba before it became ‘Americanized’. By this I mean a McDonald’s on every block, or maybe even a Holiday Inn. Going in 2013, I feel I accomplished that goal. I never saw an inkling of the giant capitalists. Now, that’s not saying they’re not on their way. They are; I just happened to beat them before they were able to build. Laundry Day
I learned of the “People to People” cultural exchange and was able to find a tour that concentrated on photography. I was there for ten days, visiting the big city (Havana), the medium-sized city (Cienfuegos), and the farm (Vinales Valley).Taking plenty of memory cards, I took 6,000 photos. I jokingly tell everyone that all 6,000 are winners, something I wish was true!
The peoples’ resiliency helped to make me appreciate the human spirit. One example: One early morning, we were walking in Old Havana. We happened across a small group of men working with a blow torch. They were in the process of converting a fire extinguisher into a car muffler.
IngenuityA fire extinguisher is converted into a car muffler. “Adapting” is another word I like to use in my description of the Cuba people. They’ve adapted and have made the best of it. I think that’s something we can all learn from.
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