Cuba, a hot topic.
Everyone is curious about Cuba. Events over the last few years has definitely spiked interest.
As a teen living in Puerto Rico in the early 1980s, my imaginations went wild with folklore about Cuba. The two islands are linked historically and culturally and personal passions run deep. I have always felt connected to open-hearted, radiant souls. The stories of men escaping the communist island by swimming to the United States and women and children held captive opened adventure and the mind of a young girl from South Carolina.
So when my friend, Mary Buck, asked me to make the long-awaited journey to Cuba, I eagerly agreed. And to her I am grateful for leading me down this path.
The plane ride from Atlanta was easy, and soon we landed in Havana. As we deplaned, the familiar island humidity hung tightly on me as we made our way through customs.
Havana welcomed us with lively crowds, classic cars, honking horns, and the smell of pork frying. It was going to be an interesting adventure.
The feeling of adventure was expounded when we pulled up to the address of our Airbnb. It was next-door to desecrated buildings, overflowing garbage cans and dirt streets. I clutched my belongings for dear life. Are you kidding me?
We avoided eye contact with the men loitering in front of our home away from home as we located the hostess who led us through a rustic broken door up a narrow tile stairway. Moments later we were left alone in our concrete bungalow with limited toilet paper, linens and expected kitchen supplies.
We looked at each other like deer in headlights. With a gulp and a grin, we geared up our cameras, slathered on the sunscreen and headed out the door.
We quickly discovered the streets of Centro Habana were safe, rich with heart and pastel painted buildings just waiting to be photographed. Our lenses captured the vibrancy of the Cuban people, and we were humbled by their joy.
The daily life of Havana captured my heart. Mornings were filled with people of all ages reading the paper, sipping coffee, easing into the day. Cubans gathered on street corners, peered out of their rejas enclosed dwellings, and decorated their balconies with laundry. There was a strong sense of community.
If you blinked, you could have missed the variety of businesses hidden in the concrete mecca. Signage was limited, but you could sense the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well.
As the sun went down, the music turned up. Street sounds intensified and so did security. Military soldiers and muzzled German Shepherds lined the streets. In the mix, there was peace. A simple calm felt under the colorful, spontaneous, boisterous and unpredictable culture.
With the myriad of contrasts on every corner, it was the people who touched my heart. I pray their search for freedom continues. A life of searching is familiar to me, and who knows where street photography. I am along for the ride.