One week, four flights, 450+ pictures and about 12 shot videos later, I’m back from Cuba. It was an incredible experience, but I know I will be processing everything — what I saw, tried, learned and the conversations I shared with Cubans, our tour guide and others on the trip — for a long time.
What was, and is still, most salient to me are all the contradictions I realized, learned about and noticed. Cuba is a country where most bellhops make more money than brain surgeons. Havana is beautiful, vibrant and majestic, but it’s decrepit. Music is everywhere; the culture is palpable, yet the streets are practically empty at night because people cannot afford to go out. No one will hesitate to pour you a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke) from their bottles, but many others on the street or in restrooms will ask you outright for money, handouts, anything, because they need it. Cubans’ news and information is government-controlled and only 2 percent of the country has Internet, yet pretty much everyone launched into a discussion with me (in English, mind you) about Barack Obama’s happenings and updates on the Yankees baseball team.
Even when I look back on my hundreds of pictures, I know they don’t even begin capture what Cuba really is, all of the layers and sides to the story. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll update the blog with thematic posts in attempt to offer a better, fuller sense of Cuba. Look for upcoming video from a baseball game, a briefing about tourism and my dinner at a paladar, a post about music, including video from stumbled-upon performances to a (free) Calle Trece concert in front of the U.S. Interest Section and a Buena Vista Social Club performance.
For now, here is a selection of photos I took during my trip that I think serve as appropriate introduction to Cuba.
–Karina for TKGO