The New Cuba

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As I wrote in a post two weeks ago (Changing Cuba) rapid changes are seen in Cuba. In some areas the country is hardly recognizable compare to only few years ago. The changes are mostly seen as positive by the Cubans themselves, like the possibility to open small private businesses, the possibility to sell houses and apartments (and not only through exchange as it was before) and for the young generation; particularly having a bit more internet access (although generally it’s still only for the few and still extremely slow).

Most of the changes are economically, while politically nothing much has changed for the Cubans. Yes, there is less propaganda than before, and there are hardly any political rallies or demonstrations any more, but the political control still hasn’t eased, maybe even to the contrary. The biggest political change happens at an international level with the opening of the diplomatic relationships between Cuba and USA.

It’s still not quite normalized as we found out, my colleague and I, for this year’s photo workshop in Havana and Trinidad. We had a nice number of US participants signed up for the workshop, but one by one they cancelled due to the still quite bureaucratic process of getting travel permits (by the US authorities that is). Hopefully this will change over the next year.

Here are a handful of pictures of the «new» Cuba taken during my last trip to the country a couple of weeks ago.

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98 thoughts on “The New Cuba

  1. Interesting article with lovely photos..of course , change of this magnitude does not happen overnight it is hoped that the Cubans preserve some of what attracts ‘us’ to their country .

  2. Very expressive series – as always from you! As you might expect – my favourite is the last picture. It seems I should go there now, to Cuba, before it’s too late…

    1. It’s an interesting thought, of course. Cuba will always be there. But, yes, if you want to experience the paradox of Caribbean socialism it’s probably a good idea not to wait too long…

  3. These do have a different “flavor” from your previous images of Cuba. As always, I love the vibrance of your photos that somehow give me a sense of connection and being there. I can not only see the change you speak of, I can almost hear it humming in the air.

  4. I have mixed sentiments about this huge change. They are getting something very important as you described but on the other side they will have to pay a price for this. But if the at least can keep they Cuban mentality it will be ok. Nice photos which shows very well what’s happening, the first photo and the last are superb!
    robert

  5. Great captures of the place.. I am quite surprised at this point that tight control is still pretty much the same or even more so. I hope the opening country with US will be much easier soon.

  6. It’s interesting reading the comments how many people decry changes in Cuba solely from their perspective as tourists. I’m sure any changes that happen there are welcomed by the Cuban people regardless of whether it effects tourism or not. They have had a tough time for decades and deserve to be able to enjoy the fruits of greater prosperity and the modern world.

    1. I agree with you. Somehow we – as tourists – would rather have the world be untouched by changes. In the end I think we just want the different countries to not become too unified or mainstream alike.

  7. Enjoyed the writing as much as the photos ~ and it is a changing Cuba, which for all the wonder and positives it will have for the economy and people of the country, I like the feel of your last photo which shows the simple things of life that make and create a country. Beautiful photos.

  8. Super selection of images and informative text adding another layer of understanding. I’ve not been to Cuba but your post conveys an interesting sense of place.

  9. I’m sorry the Americans had to drop out due to bureaucratic issues. I was wondering if getting a visa would still be a problem. Your pictures are fabulous. I guess we still have to wait a while to visit in person! 🙂

  10. All the pictures are fantastic, but that last one is AMAZING. BTW, my mentor, Janet Hulstrand, took the first group of students from Queens College in New York into Cuba a couple of years ago. She’s amazing too.

  11. I’m so glad, that Cuba is now beginning the proces of getting integrated in the rest of the world. I’m sure the Cuban people will keep their their culture, pride and their openminded, happy and musical way of being!

    1. I am sure you are right about the latter. As for integration, the country has always been active on the international scene, for instance providing more medical help, particular in South American, than any other country.

  12. Flotte bilder og tekst ! Vi burde kanskje også planlegge en Cuba tur på kort tid så vi for se ditt flotte land før det er helt forandret ! Ville ha vært veldig kjekt å se det sammen med deg storebror 🙂

  13. It’s somewhat ironic that, since relations were restored between the U.S. and Cuba, there has been an uptick of Cuban refugees into this country. Many are going first to Latin America, and then entering through Mexico. The fear is that the Cuban Adjustment Act will be curtailed or abolished in this era of more normal relations, making it more difficult for Cubans to attain permanent residency here.

    I never feel it in your posts, but there can be the occasional hint of a bias in comments that I think of as almost neo-colonial. People who long to get to Cuba before it changes, and who mourn, for example, the demise of the 1950s autos, are seeing Cuba through a particular lens. The Cuban people no doubt long for the opportunity to have working transportation, and pharmacies where they can purchase basic necessities like cotton balls and thermometers, which still are hand-carried into the country from places like the U.S.

    It’s worth remembering that control of a population often is most complete when it is most invisible. And always, the gap between the political class and ordinary people includes economic differences.

    Still — it’s a wonderful country, and the Cubans I’ve met have been wonderful people. Your photographs do them proud, as my grandmother would say. I’m especially fond of that last one. It’s a compelling image.

    1. Your have written with some poignant points of view. And I think you are right about both. The special wet foot, dry foot policy – the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act – might fall when political relations are back to normal between USA and Cuba. And, yes, there is a general nostalgia among tourists for the “unchanged” Cuba. I even find myself prone to it at times. But as you point out, the Cubans have a right to be working for changes that can make life easier for them.

  14. A very thoughtful post Otto with interesting photos to compliment the prose. It seems that changes such as this cannot just happen overnight, but I do hope that Cuba and what initially attracts us to Cuba does not undergo too a drastic change. Clearly the infrastructure, education and medical services need to change with thought and care, rather than a full steam ahead attitude as some governments like to do, at the expense of the people/ country.

    1. You comments is very poignant. Yes, changes are necessary, but must be done in a way that is for the best for the people and the country. Thank you for the contribution to the discussion, James.

  15. Lovely photos – especially the one with the car. I have heard a lot about well maintained old Cuban cars and I think it would be interesting to see them in real life.

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