Cuba, and Havana in particular, is in the midst of a dramatic change. On November 28, 2014, three weeks before President Obama announced that he would like to begin the process of normalizing relations with Cuba, I made the decision to travel to Havana, through Mexico, to visit this city, which is still “off limits” to the casual American tourist.
There is truth in the statement, Havana is a city frozen in time 50+ years ago. This is clearly evident in the American cars from the 1950’s still traveling the streets, and in many of the storefronts with their limited consumer goods, but it is also a characterization, which can lead one to a false sense of sentimentality or condescension.
The 1961 US embargo did, in one sense, freeze Havana and cut it off from consumer goods progress, and severely limited its economic development, but the Havana of today is not the Havana of 1961. Havana today is the outgrowth of the 1959 Revolution, the US embargo and the Cold War which forced the inhabitants of this city, just 90 miles off the US coast to develop in ways they can speak of with great pride and in ways which leave them longing for more.
While concentrating on the sections of Havana known as “Habana Vieja,” and “Centro Habana”, now United Nations World Heritage Sites being renovated and brought back to life, I decided to document not only the buildings but the people living in these currently run down sections of the city. Their homes, the means by which they get food, electricity and water, and even the newly sanctioned small private enterprise ventures, left me, an American with many privileges in life, awed and humbled by the resilience and ingenuity of the “Habaneros.”
The images in this body of work grew out of, and helped me to develop, a deeper understanding of Havana and its people. Havana and Cuba are truly on the cusp of change.