As we head to Cuba for New Year’s 2014 I wanted to look back at our first trip there from December 2012. There is something surreal and alluring about being in a country that is forbidden to visit. You have a feeling like you are constantly being watched and that you are starring in a strange movie when you are on an island with no boats and no modern luxuries. The people don’t have internet access and are in many ways cut off from the outside world except for what they hear from foreign visitors.
With the US embargo starting in 1960, most US citizens have only seen Havana in magazine photos and the first thought that comes to mind is old 1950’s cars. The cars were there but I was surprised to see many progressive changes taking place in the country since Raul Castro took over for his brother Fidel in 2008. People are starting to be entrepreneurial with new businesses popping up on every corner and just this week the traditional communist government lifted their ban on private citizens being able to buy new cars which in the past had just been for a select few appointed by the government. This will surely spell the end for many of these relics that line the streets of Havana.
The photo above is of a 1950’s style Chevy sedan in pristine condition driving past the National Capital Building in Havana. It took many hours practicing pan and blur to get images of these classic cars. Until walking in Havana, I had no idea they built their El Capitolio building in the likeness of the US Capital building in Washington DC.
Cuba is changing fast and so I find it very important to visit and document a place with photos that seems stuck in an era gone by. It feels like you can step back in time and imagine the glamour of the past when Havana was the true playground of the rich and famous in the 1950’s. While sipping a mojito at Hotel Nacional de Cuba you know that Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner and Hollywood elite sat in the same place basking in the romantic Caribbean air sipping the world famous Havana Club Rum. Many people love Cuban cigars but it is Havana Club that I find to be the true coveted item of choice.
I cannot wait to celebrate on the top of a building in the Plaza de la Catedral and ring in 2014 with canons that rock the city and feel like I have truly taken a step into the past to move to the future.