Saturday, February 6, 2016
An eight-day series from The World-Herald
A special thanks This trip was made possible through by a grant from the Andy Awards, a University of Nebraska at Omaha-sponsored program that seeks to promote international journalism.
Q&A: Changes in Cuba Clearing up common questions regarding Cuba travel.
Do not go to Cuba if you want life to be easy. Do not go if you demand constant wireless Internet and hotel showers guaranteed to spew hot water and reliable air conditioning and fresh white paint and emerald green manicured lawns.
Go to Cuba if you want life to be messy. Go to fall in love with the faded signs and the old cars bumping down narrow roads and the salsa music and the swaying hips and the life spilling onto every Havana sidewalk, city park and street. Go to Cuba if these words snap you to attention: Nuanced. Tangled. Fiery. Adrenaline-fueled.
Don’t go to Cuba if you want another vacation, another place to warm your bones in February.
Go to Cuba if you want something different. Something singular. Something so indescribably deep and beautiful that words, at least mine, cannot match it. Something that you can glimpse in the photos that surround these words. Something you need to see to understand. Matthew Hansen
Rosa Guillén puts a candle in a holder at the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Old Havana. Guillén cares for and cleans the area where patrons light prayer candles at the Catholic church. Catholicism is having a renaissance in Cuba after the government ended previous restrictions on organized religion and after Pope Francis visited in September. At top, a butcher feeds a cat a piece of meat in an open-air agricultural market in Havana. You can buy pork, chicken or fish in this market but not beef, which is seen as a luxury item and purchased mostly by hotels and restaurants that serve tourists.
Juan Gutiérrez eats a hunk of bread as he walks near the rural town of Recompensa, Cuba. Gutierrez was headed to a group of palm trees. He used his rope to climb the trees and he used his machete to harvest palmiche, a berry of the royal palm tree. The palmiche were then fed to his hogs.
1950s-era American cars are still popular in Cuba. Tourists are awed by the cars and often pay a little extra to ride in one that has been refashioned as a taxi. The U.S. embargo makes it difficult to get American parts, so the classic American cars often run with European engines or Asian parts underneath their hoods.
Ana Rosa Darilma, left, and her son, Jivan Valdés Darilma, hang laundry to dry at their home in Old Havana. The roof in the area where Ana Rosa was doing laundry, had collapsed. The average age of a Havana building is roughly 75 years old, says Miguel Coyula, and on average several collapse each day because of a lack of maintenance and money.
Sixteen-year-olds Armando, left, Alejandro and Irán, hangout in the streets of the Barrio Colón in Old Havana. Young Cubans can get a free education through college and graduate school. But while the education system remains strong, the post-graduation opportunities often are lacking, Cubans say.
Children walk home from school to have lunch in the rural town of Bahía Honda, Cuba. The Cuban education system produces one of the highest literacy rates in the world, significantly higher than the literacy rate in the United States.
Rosa Maria León sells medicinal plants and oils at an open-air agricultural market in Havana. She has a government permit to sell different natural remedies, which she says cure ailments like indigestion and insomnia as well as help Cubans who are trying to quit smoking.
Amparo Rodríguez, second from left, sells flowers in Los Sitios town, Middle Havana. Many Cubans work second or third jobs on nights and weekends in order to add to their government salaries, which may pay them $20 or $30 per month.
Rice is a staple crop for Cubans. The country must import a majority of its crops and food after decades of overfarming and other poor agricultural practices.
Mercedes Álvarez, left, holds her grandson, Yoandry Martínez, on the porch of her home with her sister, Carmen Álvarez, and her daughter, Yaritsel Martínez near Recompensa, Cuba. The leaves of the palm tree dry on the ground in front of Mercedes rural home. Tobacco is wrapped in the leaves to keep it dry when it's transported.
Yonder Alvarez sells sweet oranges in the Barrio de Colón of Havana. Fruit is often purchased on the street or at roadside stands in Cuba. Cubans receive chicken, milk and other staples in their monthly rations.
Havana is seen through the glass shades of the offices of Vistar Magazine, the first independent culture magazine in the country. Havana's skyline has looked the same for decades, but walk the streets and it becomes clear that Cuba itself is changing fast.
The Hustler's father is a retired engineer, he long ago lived on the East Coast, became a fan of Ted Williams' Boston Red Sox and traveled by train through Omaha.
Shoppers walk through the Almacenes San José Artisans' Market in Old Havana. Paintings, clothes, carvings, and trinkets are sold at the market, which is a common destination for the thousands of tourists descending on Havana.
Taxi driver Yoel Díaz leans against his 1950s Chrysler in Old Havana.
Tourists take pictures at the Plaza de la Revolución, "Revolution Square," on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Havana, Cuba. The facade of the Ministry of Interior building features a steel memorial to a hero of the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara, with the quotation "Hasta la Victoria Siempre" (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always). Fidel Castro has addressed millions of Cubans at the square on many important occasions. Both Pope John Paul II in 1998 and Pope Francis in 2015 held large masses there during their papal visits to Cuba.
An example of the renovation of Old Havana, a decades-long, multi-million-dollar project meant to return that part of the city to its former glory. In the background is the Port of Havana.
FAC, or Fábrica de Arte Cubano, is an old warehouse that's been converted into a giant art gallery, performance space, restaurant and night club. FAC is a magnet for young Cubans and tourists, who compare it to the trendiest spots in New York or Los Angeles.
Classic American cars are still a favored mode of transportation, though they are gradually being replaced by newer Chinese, Korean and European cars.
Waitresses clean up after customers at the Hostal El Cañonazo's restaurant in Havana as chickens peck the ground. As Havana's economy becomes more tourism driven, waitresses and cab drivers can make more money in two days than a doctor makes in a month.
The Hustler, a black-market bandit turned legit businessman, in the apartment next to his jewelry kiosk and connected to his print shop. The Hustler spent time in jail and tried to escape by raft before a series of small-but-important Cuban economic reforms allowed him to run his own company.
A singer performs on the 35th anniversary of John Lennon's death, at the Submarino Amarillo in the Vedado district in Havana. Submarino Amarillo is Cuba's only rock-n-roll club that doubles as a tribute bar to the Beatles.
A band performs at the Submarino Amarillo. For decades, rock music was officially banned in Cuba after Fidel Castro labeled it "decadent."
On the 35th anniversary of his death, a candle burns next to a statue of John Lennon in Lennon Park in the Vedado district of Havana.
Internet service is a public utility in Cuba but connectivity is low. Cubans often get online by going to wi-fi hot spots found in public parks or outside tourist hotels, like the Hotel Presidente, seen here.
Left: Cubans walk the narrow streets in the Bario de Belén of Old Havana. Right: Laydis Maria, left, waits for the bus at El Curita Park in Old Havana with her boyfriend, Junior Camboa. The couple, who are almost out of high school, were headed to a friends house to hangout.