Here’s the last installment of pictures from my March trip to Cuba. The series started here. The trip offered lots of photographic variety — including dancing showgirls, boxers in training, school kids, cigar moguls, classic cars, Havana street life and more — so take a look at all the posts. The trip was also fascinating and educational for me personally; I hope my eagerness to share what I learned didn’t get too long-winded. Thanks for looking.
As I mentioned earlier, Havana has plenty of sights to see. A prior post had my attempts at decent pictures from Revolution Square, the current center of federal government buildings. The Capitolio (pictured in three shots below) is the former center of government. It looks just like the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. Built in the 1920s, it was originally the home of the Cuban legislature. When Castro took over, he disbanded both their houses of Congress and did away with representative government — thus freeing the Capitolio up for other purposes!
Our group had some nice opportunities to get on rooftops and other high places just at sunrise or sunset, which is a simple recipe for good pictures. A few of the pictures you see are from a hotel on Park Central; one is from the tower of the original Bacardi building; a handful are from the lighthouse at “Morro Castle,” which is actually a 400-year-old fortress that guards the entrance to the port of Havana.
On the last night of my trip, we went to a rooftop party. The event included the opportunity to watch a drums-and-dancing Santeria ritual. Santeria is a form of religion that mixes Catholicism with African “animist” beliefs. I cannot pretend to understand or explain it, but these dancing performances are fairly common and open to the public. The dancers and the folks wearing white are part of that. The finale of that evening was those pigeons. (See the picture at the top of this post). There was a pigeon coop (and a pigeon-keeper) on the roof, and just at sun set he let 30 or so of them out for their evening exercise. They kept returning to the roof; he kept shooing them away to fly around some more, giving me several chances to try to get the “perfect” picture. It was a nice, peaceful wind-down of a sometimes-overwhelming couple of weeks in Cuba.
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Finally, here (below) is one of the last pictures I took in Cuba. I know it doesn’t look like much. I took it with a tiny pocket camera in the cab on the way to the airport. Normally, I had always tried to use one of the privately-owned taxis rather than the government-owned taxis, but in the scramble to get out of my hotel and out to the airport, I didn’t seem to have a choice. My reflex was to be unhappy and uncomfortable in the government-run cab, but of course it wasn’t Castro at the wheel; it was just an ordinary Cuban guy doing his job. The driver was a nice guy who found out I was headed for Miami and quickly told me he had family that had moved to America long ago. He seemed to envy their fate, but Cubans are generally not allowed to travel freely, so he said that he’d never been allowed to go visit. At about that point, I noticed his personal keychain — the stars and stripes of an American flag on a heart-shaped medallion. That’s a “sneaked” picture of his keychain (and his knee and steering wheel) in the picture below, taken from my backseat vantage point. Seeing his keychain — attached to the keys of his Communist-government taxicab — was a fitting finale to my Cuba experience and another reminder that I’m lucky to live where I do.
If you happen to get a chance to go to Cuba in the next few years, go. You’ll need a sense of adventure and an open mind. You’ll stumble into things you never expected and things you’d never encounter at home — some good; some bad. The overlay of a Communist, socialist system in what’s otherwise a peaceful tropical world is fascinating and eye-opening. Parts of it you’ll love, and the other parts will make you appreciate your own country. As the Castros age, Cuba is changing fast. Maybe I’ll get to go again and see some of that change take place. Hasta la proxima!