All around Cuba people sit outside their houses or businesses, taking advantage of any wafts of cool air. People sit on steps, boxes, curb-stones, wooden stools and if they’re lucky, a favourite chair. Often these chairs look like home-made affairs, ingeniously bent lengths of rebar or other steel rod, forming a basic structure sometimes adorned with flourishes. They are mostly very old, worn, re-painted and above all, well-used.
The stories are true, Cuba is passion, heat, decay, music and vintage cars but so much more. After a regrettably short visit my mind and my mind’s eye are bursting with sounds and colours, people and sensations. I travelled with a small group of keen photographers in a coach over dusty pock-marked roads from Havana to CienFuego, to Trinidad and Santa Clara and finally back to Havana. My amigos also visited Vinales but a short interlude with the excellent Cuban health system prevented me from joining them. Frui runs holidays (with a photographic tutor) to Cuba and many other great destinations.
We flourished in the expert guidance of Giselle our Cuban chaperone and our driver Candito, who both went far beyond the call of duty to find us the perfect places and situations for our photographic purposes.
Cuba is not an easy country to understand, its history is complex and thrilling. Stuck as it is with the US trade embargo still in place, the Cubans are short of all sorts of modern and everyday products which are so familiar to us. Cuba is not short of welcome and rhythm. The salsa beat is with you day and night, sit down in a cafe and within moments a live band will be serenading you and musicians set up in the street in the most unlikely places. Tourism is Cuba ‘s money-maker, life there will change very quickly when the Castro dynasty ends, tourism will be the big draw for foreign entrepreneurs, who no doubt will suck away all the profits leaving the Cubans to make what they can with an infra-structure that has been starved of regeneration funds for more than 50 years.