The embargo is still in place, but the travel ban is all but lifted. Two days after my charter flight returned a major airline announced the inaugural sale of commercially run flights from the US to the tiny Havana airport. In a place that seems to be forever stuck in the past, the signs of change are already beginning to show. Cubans talk about designer fashion and Instagram and Obama, but are also concerned about why we are so attached to our cell phones, and what ways a capitalist economy would affect their culture. They are all quick to say that “the problem that exists between us is only a problem between our governments, not the people”
Cuban creativity is stunning. It is easily obvious in their ability to keep alive the beautiful old cars, in their art and their way of focusing on the beautiful part of the struggle. They are master hustlers, and everyone I met has a job and a side project. Kids play in Havana's streets with balls held together by tape, or homemade toys of string and cardboard. It provides a lot of insight to our relationship with material things. Most people I spoke to acknowledged wanting more, but also felt that maybe it was easier to be happy when there are less things to want. And the people who have so little by western standards, are so willing to share whatever they do have.
Cuba is a study in contrasts. It is beautiful, but sad. Majestic, but crumbling. Her people are stoic, but joyful. There is so much movement, but it also feels stuck. Cuba embodies both hope and despair at the same time, and it evokes nostalgia. The deepest kind of nostalgia because it reminds you at the same time how easily things can fall apart, and also how well they can be held together.
Foreword written by my travling partner in crime, Gabrielle Carrelli.