Changing Cuba

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Cuba is in a state of change. Not so much politically, but economically some big changes are happening, albeit only in some areas of the country – most noticeably in Havana. The changes are above all evident in the industries related to tourism. Every day a new private restaurant or a new private bed and breakfast is opening somewhere. Every day new offers of excursions or activities pop up in town. There is almost a feeling of frenzy in the private tourist businesses these days. Everybody wants to take part in what right now is a booming money machine. Moreover, everybody in the tourism industry is waiting for the massive incursion of US tourists as soon as the political connections between  and  are fully normalized. In the meantime, tourists from the rest of the world flock to the country, wanting to experience the «other» Cuba  before it’s all gone and turned into McDonalds-culture and taken over by the corporate mass-industries.

Also people and customs are changing, most visibly among the younger generation who are attracted to a more international flair of living. Cuban youth these days looks like youth in any part of the world. They are seeking the same goals and the same living standards as any other youth. You see them on the streets with their smart phones, taking selfies, texting and playing, as if they could be in New York,  Paris or Singapore. Today they even got internet access. This has not been the case up until quite recently. Cubans in general have not had access to the world by proxy of internet. However, during the last year the Cuban authorities have established a number of wifi hotpots around the country to which anybody can connect. Only a couple of years ago this would have been completely unthinkable. Now you find particularly young people flocking around the wifi hotspots with their cell phones.

However, as massive as the changes appear to be, they still only affect a minority of the Cubans, the once lucky enough to be able to build for instance a restaurant or a bed and breakfast. For most of the 11 million Cubans, life still goes unchanged as it has for the last 20 or so years. There is probably a general improvement compared to the special period in ’91, ’92 and ’93, but it will still be a long time before the majority of the Cubans are able to benefit from the present economic development.

The pictures in this post are all taken in Havana over the last week or so – and are of course only a few of the many thousands I have taken so far. It’s going to take some time before I will have them all edited, but I hope to be able to get back with more images from Cuba not so long in the future. Talking about posting, I appreciate all the likes and comments you have given on my previous posts. Internet is still a slow disaster here in , so I don’t have any way of responding properly as of yet. But I promise, as soon as I am back to high speed internet access again I will respond to your all.

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93 thoughts on “Changing Cuba

  1. On the one hand I would like Cuba never to change before I get to see it, and the other hand hits me on the head and tells me not to be so selfish, you can’t blame them for being aspirational and wanting a better place to live!

  2. beautiful street scenes, especially the pictures without installation! the hairdresser, life with the bus, look at the corner of the car !! beautiful HDR effect,

  3. Like it or not, the hands of time cannot be held back. It is one of the essential laws of nature, “Nothing stays the same. All things must change.”
    Meaningful post and great accompanying shots.

  4. Excellent post! It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I went to Cuba and is be so curious to see for myself the changes. Are the stores still half stocked or have you seen more goods coming in? I remember how hard it was to find toilet paper, soap and just your basic goods. It would be fascinating to go back. Looking forward to your photos and stories.

  5. Otto! Welcome back. Your pictures, as always, are a perfect reflection to the words of your post. You speak of change, and that’s just what I see in your photos. Not only in the subjects and backgrounds (so vibrant!) but in the angles of the shots. It’s as if I can feel the images moving, feel the energy of change in your photos. Amazing.

    PS — I’m back to blogging now, at a new blog: https://ecrire1823.wordpress.com/

  6. I love these photos, Otto. This has been on my mind for some time, that I would really like to get to Cuba before the US is back in there full force. We were just talking about this and your pictures are inspiring me to make it happen.

    1. Yes, it’s quite something special, to have a country in the Western hemisphere that hasn’t been influenced by the US. I believe this will all change over the next year (before Obama’s presidential period is over).

  7. As you know, my view of realities in Cuba is shaped less by a desire to get there before it is “spoiled” and more by a desire to see it “spoiled” — if by spoiling, we mean allowing a normal person to be able to purchase bandaids, thermometers, gauze bandages, and such other basic medical supplies, as well as food at a decent price.

    Some I know with close connections to Cuba certainly acknowledge changes you mention, such as increased internet access. But, like the set-asides of vacation spots such as Varadero, many of the improvements will funnel money to the upper levels of society. The Cuban people certainly are creative, vibrant, and resilient, but systemic change will be needed before all can participate in a growing economy.

    1. I think what you point to is inevitable. But for me this is not about being spoiled, but being able to maintain the countries cultural identity and also maintain its many services it does give its people, after all, such as free healthcare and free education. 🙂

  8. I was looking ay my photos of Cuba earlier this week and was once again impressed by its colour and vitality as I was with your lovely shots today. Things may be changing but I see that the spirit of Cuba lives on.

  9. Fra regnskogen til Cuba…. heldig du, Otto! : ) Flott serie du deler med oss! Jeg reiser til Cuba i mars – håper ikke Mc Donalds har etablert seg innen den tid! Jeg har sendt deg ei melding på FB, med spørsmål om booking av hotellet Los Jasmines i Vinales.
    Fortsatt gode dager på Cuba! : )

    1. Living there or staying in Cuba as a tourist? It’s less expensive than most Western countries, but more expensive than for instance other countries in Latin-America. You can easily travel for 100 dollars a day, included accommodation, food and transportation.

  10. Some wonderful glimpses of a changing society. Of course there will be an exciting rush to more expression and entrepreneurial spirit in Cuba but then again many will get left behind. Another society of extreme ‘haves’ and extreme ‘have nots’ awaits them.

  11. This is great insight into Cuba, and I suppose what people fear (losing the essence of the Cuba we all dream about), but I suppose it too represents a change that is such a necessary part of life. The photos are a great look into such change, and we can get the feel of the frenzy you talk about in the private tourist businesses.

  12. Thank you for sharing these beautiful images Otto! I’ve been following newspaper articles about Cuba with great interest, but they don’t possess the artistry and personal perspective that you so powerfully share!

  13. Hi Otto, in that third photo down, did the lady ask you if you just took her photo? If so do you ask them if they want a copy and give her a card? Now that they have internet access. I suppose that the Cuban people may be used to the photo taking with the tourism boom?

      1. Its very nice Otto. I love the spontaneous feeling of the image. I recently saw a series by a UK photographer where he photographs people with excessive botox/ face lift jobs/ and London wealth. He photographs the people and moves on before they have a chance to barely realize what happened. I suppose he is not the first photographer to adopt this method, but i thought the photos are quite wonderful. It really opens up questions to how a photographer approaches subjects. I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea.http://www.bjp-online.com/2015/10/qatar-responds-to-dougie-wallaces-photographs-of-britains-wealth-tourism/

          1. Your welcome Otto, Martin Parr does have a very interesting perspective, and a wonderful voice. I think that is what im concentrating on this year, finding my own difinitive voice, but is there one?. Of recent, it has been nice to photograph what other people are after, which in turn helps develop oneself. Are you still running your classes?

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