20 March 2018 Blogs

Cuba Preview

Intro Copy

I just got back from Cuba--an amazing, contradictory, quickly changing place. Here is a preview of some of the content that will be coming to CultureGrams soon! The often crumbling, partially painted buildings of Havana are public safety hazards, with around three houses collapsing per day. In sharp contrast, the city is full of brightly painted, beautifully preserved vintage American automobiles that whisk tourists around the island country's capital. A resident of Trinidad walks down the street in afternoon light, carrying bread provided by the state. Cubans receive a small monthly allotment of food staples, including rice, beans, coffee, bread, chicken, and oil. Smartphone addiction is not the problem in Cuba that it is in much of the world. Although Cuban youth have access to cell phones, their access to data is extremely limited. so unlike most teens who are texting and on apps all day, these kids are not. In fact, the only app they can use without a wi-fi connection is emails. The government has also blocked access to many popular apps. Long story short, she's not on Snapchat. She likely can't even get it. It's a common sight in Cuba to see homes with doors open to the street, especially in the evening when temperatures cool. These two brothers were relaxing and watching TV in their living room and talking to passersby on the street through their open door. Sometimes when I ask to take someone's portrait, they agree as long as I agree to take a photo of both of us afterward. Such was the case here, though as I positioned my phone for a selfie, everyone in the nearby intersection started yelling, "Watch out! He kisses!" I have an unexpected burst of selfies to show that he does indeed. With gusto, but only on the cheek. Though cell phones have become ubiquitous in Cuba, they are still very expensive to use, so it is common for Cubans to ask family and friends to call them back on a linea fija (landline) for longer conversations. A snorkeling guide in the Cuban resort village of La Boca works on his car. Because parts are scarce, they must be scavenged from other, older cars. Engines often include components from a variety of models and car owners are endlessly tinkering, swapping out parts when they come across something better, even on the side of the road. A lot of socializing in Cuba takes place in public. Houses are open to the street, kids play, and neighbors chat. Vintage cars cruise down Calle 23, past the Riviera, one of many beautiful old movie theaters from the 1940s and '50s that are still in operation in the Vedado district of Havana. Due to Cuban government funding, movies still only cost around 10 cents per screening.