Havana in Photographs
words and images by Warren Wilson
As I might have mentioned before, my favorite thing about traveling is having the opportunity of seeing how others live. And, the people help give me a sense of place. As a photographer, I make every attempt I can to include people in my photography. Sure, sometimes people don't add to a photograph. But, often they do. They help to tell the story.
How do the people live? What are their daily activities? These are questions I try to answer with my photography.
I found Havana, Cuba to be a place I'd always known about. Growing up during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960's, Cuba was not far from my home state of Alabama. I recall my parents being concerned about the future. Uncertain times, indeed!
From that childhood experience, I followed the story of Castro and his many years as ruler of the small nation. So, when I had a chance to visit the small nation, I jumped at the opportunity.
I envisioned a country of sad people. After all, many years under a dictatorship does tend to wear a people down. Happily, I was wrong. I discovered that the people seemed to love the Americans. I found that to be evident on the 90-minute plane ride from Miami to Havana. The plane was filled mostly with Cubans. Many had items they had bought in the States--mostly electronics. They were a happy group and several were interested why our group was on the plane. We took pictures of each other and got to know a bit about each other.
Initially, I was thinking that my worst fears would be right. As the plane was in its descent to land in Havana, I watched the "shacks" where I assumed many Cubans lived. They looked like they were pieced together with string and bubble gum. I thought "Such a poor nation."
Arriving in Havana, I expected the Customs to be similar to the Customs I witnessed in Hanoi, Vietnam. In Hanoi, I found it to be quite intimidating. The agents were checking practically every bag. Nary a smile. Kinda scary! But, with Havana, although the Customs agents weren't acting jovial, it was a more relaxed atmosphere. I actually found it easier than arriving in Philadelphia after an international flight.
I had hoped to reach Cuba before it became what I call "Americanized". By this term, I mean a McDonalds on every block, a Marriott to stay, and 7-11's to grab a soda. None of those fears were realized. But, I did find the kids to be quick to open their palm for money. I suppose we can forgive them of that; I see that same behavior when I visit downtown Washington, DC.
Our photography group spent three days out of ten in Havana. Such a great city. I know we didn't catch everything there was to see, but we did our best. We had a chance to soak in the city and to be a part of some extraordinary cultural exchanges. The people greeted us with open arms and warm hearts. What more can one ask for?
Find a gallery of Havana images here.
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