Saturday, March 30, 2013

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies

It took me a while to process my trip to Cuba, mainly because its a place where you either visit for its affordable resort destination or to experience a country that has yet to find its place and stuck between a bygone cold war era with its decaying iconography and austere socialism amidst profitable tourism industry. Outside of the boring resort gate, also known as tourist prison (I'm calling you out Veradora) by Cubans, there are so many amazing local spots and artisans to explore. The jarring paradoxes and contradictory beauty in this small Island that has been a political thorn for some and an admiring force for many revolutions around the world can be overwhelming.

Our first stop was Havana and what an experience it was to be surrounded by erudite museums, alluring street festivals/theater and the everyday hustle and passion of Habaneros (the people of Havana). My favorite part was walking around UNESCO World Heritage site of old Havana, with its fascinating cluster of buildings and churches, mostly restored from near ruins in the past decade.
We met this interesting lady at the Historic Square - Plaza de la Catedral 

 Cathedral de San Cristobal de La Habana
 The Cathedral was build in 1748, dominated by two unequal towers and framed by a theatrical baroque designed by Italian architect Francesco Boromini.
The statue of Máximo Gómez y Báez, a Major General in the Ten Years' War and Cuba's military commander in its War of Independence.
The Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, is a religious building architecture baroque located in the central Square in Old Havana
They say good luck comes to those who stroke the beard of this statue, a bronze representation of a person known locally as The Gentleman of Paris (his real name was José María López Lledín) who roamed the streets of Havana in the 1950s.
Everywhere you go in Cuba, you can't escape the larger than life depiction of "Che" Guevara. Here is an example of a graffiti just outside of the famous La Bodeguita del Medio restaurant-bar in Havana
 Its famous for the personalities which have patronized it: Salvador Allende and Ernest Hemingway, among others. La Bodeguita claims to be the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942, but some dispute it.
 
I don't think you can visit Havana without photographing and riding its vintage cars, which fills the streets. Its like stepping into the 1950s, mostly classic American cars with few smattering of British, French, Russian and Chinese cars.
Behind me is Havana's signature architectural sight, the very impressive Capitalio Nacional, which is similar to the US Capital Building, but with richer details.

So many options when it comes to transportation, from horse/carriage to these cute mini taxi rides
 
Local art shops can be found around Havana and worth buying a piece to take home.
 
  There are also loads of graffiti art around the city, some are really good
 I haven't found a library in Cuba, other than mini bookstore on the street of Havana. And you won't find anything past the 1960s or isn't about the Cuban Revolution.
 The whole city of Havana seems to be surrounded by amazing architectural designs, some are decaying, while others are being restored. Most of these neglected buildings were private properties before the revolution. Now Cuban families live in cluster of various quarters.
 When a girl turns 15 in Cuba, there is a significant celebration that takes place and we witnessed this young girl going through it with an official photographer.

Another shot of a vintage car turned taxi for tourists. I find it sad and interesting many of the drivers are doctors and teachers to supplement their income since you earn more driving tourists around than practicing your profession.
 Some of the operating restaurants at the center of Old Havana

I have few more pictures from Trinidad and Santa Clara and will share it soon. For inquiring mind, the quote/title of the post is by Alexis de Tocqueville.
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