First of all, I am so sorry it has taken me an obscene amount of time to share these photos with you! We had an unexpected travel nightmare back from Cuba that consisted of delayed flights, cancelled flights, lost bags, and over 24 hours of food poisoning (and still not feeling 100%)!
Suddenly when it seemed I finally had the time to get around to sharing our (fabulous!) trip with you, there were a few work-related items and stress that demanded my attention and I had to postpone further. But, finally, I can share with you all of the beautiful photos I took in Havana!
Firstly, let me talk a little bit about Cuba and its significant role in my life. As I’ve shared before, my mom’s side of the family is Cuban and escaped the country in 1961, just two years after Castro rose to power. Being able to see Cuba personally wasn’t something I deemed possible in my lifetime, but after hearing the announcement around Americans being able to travel to Cuba directly, my sister’s friend jumped at the chance to buy a ticket (flights were incredibly cheap at the time). My sister jumped in as well and called me immediately. It was a lot to soak in for a short amount of time, but without hesitation, I of course said yes.
Ten of us went (including Chet, my sister, family friends, and friends of friends). When we landed, I felt overwhelmed with emotions — happy and sad. A couple of tears strolled down my cheeks as I looked at the Cuban ground I was about to walk on. It was all so surreal!
The views from our apartment were incredible. On one side you saw the Malecon that paralleled the ocean, and the other two sides the apartment faced were miles upon miles of city — though run-down, there were beautiful colors, textures, and details everywhere you looked.
As we walked through Old Havana, the evidence of the city’s (and country’s) state was so raw and real. You could see the influence and oppression of the government. There was a feeling of “big brother” — signs praising and quoting Castro and ones that said “we continue defending the revolution!” With no advertising or other mixed messages, these are literally the only messages you see out on the streets of Havana. And because Cubans only receive a set amount of food rations per month by the government, they have to stand in line once a month to receive it. We saw one of the lines, and again it was another raw moment that left me feeling both sad and left me with so many different emotions around my family during that time — the fear they must have had! The questions I have! It left me with so many questions, and I actually quickly wrote them down so I can ask my Abuela the next time I’m visiting.
We had the privilege of being able to see the beach near Havana and explore life in the area. The waters are incredibly blue and beautiful — and a plus was running into some of the most adorable puppies I’ve ever seen (though I probably say that about every puppy so I wouldn’t take my word for it).
The nightlife was a bit unstable — we tried at least three places we’d heard of that ended up being closed — but the life out in the streets of Old Havana is very much alive and filled with laughter and music. I would definitely recommend walking through to see the Cuban night culture. It was a lot of fun, and I’m a big fan of Cuban music and salsa.
Speaking of Salsa, we took a Salsa dancing class, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I would highly recommend taking a class because not only did we learn a lot, we laughed the. entire. time. The instructors are so much fun, funny, and make you feel comfortable no matter your level (or lack of dancing talents) and it was an all-around fun time.
All in all, we only stayed in Cuba for 3 nights, but it was the perfect amount of time for our first visit to Cuba. We were able to squeeze so much into the three days, including my grandmother’s house, my grandparents’ first apartment, and the school my grandmother taught in. Next time (there will be a next time!) my sister Alina and I would love to visit my grandfather’s old farm and the area he grew up in. So… to be continued!