PLASTIC CAMERA: Cuba
CUBA, A LAND BAKED IN TIME
My visit to Cuba in May 1995 was an opportunity rich in new possibilities for my photography. I was quite drawn to the open and kind nature of the people, many of whom, when asked if they spoke English, replied, "more or less." Communication was more than satisfactory, though, with their enthusiastic attempts aided by my high school Spanish.
The people there were openly disapproving of Castro, but had mixed feelings about tourism. The money that tourism would inject into the economy was welcome, but improvements by the government seemed directed exclusively to areas that were tourist draws. Meanwhile, the people were very poor and the cities crumbling from neglect.
At the beginning of our visit we hired one of the many entrepreneurial driver/tour guides and set out for Miramar, a province populated with many of the Foreign Embassies and private homes of the more middle class citizens. As we wandered our way around Miramar looking for a place to eat, we were welcomed into the home of a retired doctor, Raul. He and his wife, Olga, treated us as though we were longtime friends. We exchanged a bit of our life stories and had a delicious meal of lobster paella that materialized on the table as if by magic.
Our guide in Trinidad was fluent in English, although Ramón would always apologize for his grammar, which he told us he learned from American movies. He spoke of his native Trinidad as "a land baked in time." The entire town's streets are made of cobblestones, but of natural stone -- not the cut stones of the rest of the island. He showed us the cigar factories (of course), the churches, market and museums that border Marti Park in the village central. Ramón's passion for conversation and news of life off the island was a delight.
I was extremely impressed by the ability of the Cubans to separate people from governments, along with their seeming ability to accept life – their life -- as it is, and to enjoy it. I felt very welcome in Cuba and would welcome another journey there.