I try my very best to travel with an open mind. And I’ve been led astray by enough guide books to know that they’re just that, a general guide, written by an individual, or group of individuals. And while it’s their job to travel with an open mind also, when it comes time to put pen to paper, they often miss the mark completely. Travel is so subjective, and I have to remind myself of that when people tell me that they don’t like a certain destination that I’ve been to. Not everyone is going to love a place, a piece of geography, a culture. But whenever someone mentions the name Cuba, my heart starts to race, an uncontrollable smile stretches across my face, and I almost immediately, almost involuntarily, begin to sway to a non-existent salsa band that is strumming an imaginary song. That is the effect this tiny island nation has on me; I am utterly memorized.
Forget for a moment, if you can, its pristine white beaches and tepid Caribbean oceans. Forget about the unmistakable island breeze that brushes across your face as you lie listlessly on your beach chair, and forget, for a brief moment, that you are there to escape the rat race that is your life back home. Cuba deserves so much more than that. If you let it, it will permeate the very core of you, and fill you with a sense of rhythm and sensuality you never knew you had. Cuba is not three star beach resorts, or all you can eat buffets. It’s not watered down mojitos at the poolside bar, or air conditioned bus rides through rolling hills. It’s the eighty-five year old piano player whose weathered hands dance upon the ivory, playing old Buena Vista Social Club classics. It’s the effortless coupling of two dancers, fingers and limbs intertwined and swaying to the beat of a sultry salsa rhythm. It’s the the jubilant group of young adolescents waiting at the side of the road for their bus to arrive, playing chess to pass the time. It’s the robust laughter you hear echoing in old colonial buildings and vintage engines in finitely polished classics, reverberating off of cobble stone streets.
Che Guevera is still very much seen as a hero throughout Cuba, and is a trans-cultural icon for struggling people’s around the world. The political climate in Cuba has changed dramatically since my very first visit nearly a decade ago, and it would seem that there is universal frustration with the Castro administration. I spent many an evening chatting with Cubans about life under a Communist regime, and most spoke the same language; Libertad.
I couldn’t get enough of the exquisite blend of Caribbean and African attire.
Everyone knows that Cuba is renowned for it’s hypnotic Afro-Spanish music, and it’s literally everywhere. Every other street has a band jamming away, and in many a Cuban street you could find me dancing with a local or two. Any opportunity to practice my salsa skills!
While Cuba is geographically beautiful, it’s the people that seduced my camera lens.
And how can you not fall in love with the accidental blending of ethnic groups. So beautiful.
How about a piece of pottery from this brilliant ceramics artist near Santa Clara? He was charging far too little for his pieces, and when I tried to slip him a few more pesos, he wouldn’t have it. Instead, he told me that knowing that his pitcher would be loved and admired in my Canadian home was enough.
Theater, dance, music. Cuban Life.