Thursday, January 18, 2018
Travel

Colors and culture in Cuba overwhelm first-time visitor

I landed in Havana with many questions about what we would witness in our brief visit. There was so much rich history and culture I wanted to experience, but the stories I had heard from Cuban refugees rang in my brain. After the death of Fidel Castro, some Cuban immigrants danced in the streets of Tampa and told stories of escaping his regime for a better life in America. It was harrowing to think about everything they went through.

But when the opportunity came for me and my husband to travel with a few of our friends, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to see Cuba, even just for a few days.

It only took me a few minutes after leaving the airport to be visually overwhelmed. There are colors that exist in Cuba that I had never witnessed with my own eyes. Candy green apple cars driving down the brightly sunlit Malecón. Pale blue water and neon yellow and blue walls. Busy squares of tourists and Cubans co-existing in this new reality of American tourism.

In three packed days, we saw beautiful historic squares, drank mojitos at Hotel Nacional de Cuba and ducked our heads into tunnels used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We took in so much art, so much history, that sometimes I had to remind myself to take a photo because I was overwhelmed. I've had many friends take incredible images in Havana and, more often than not, I was intimidated to take a photo before I even pressed down on the shutter. I felt what I was taking a photo of wouldn't rise to the level of their photos, illustrating this conflicting, incredible place.

One of my favorite parts of our time in Cuba was getting to see the artist communities. It was wonderful to see Cuban artists express themselves through murals, public art installations and music. A guide showed us one that helped teach children different mediums of art. Another turned his entire neighborhood of Jaimanitas into a mosaic gallery.

As a photojournalist, I always want to see below the surface, and it was impossible to do that in just a few days in Havana. But I'm so glad I got to witness mere glimpses into Cuba before the travel regulations were recently tightened.

Contact Eve Edelheit at [email protected] Follow @eve_edelheit.

     
         
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