Havana is a city that scrambles the imagination and the senses.  It has spawned Salsa and Mambo, one of the world’s best rums, as well as prized cigars.

Cuba’s iconographic imagery of Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara, is recognized around the world and believed to be the most recognized photo in existence. The Rumba beat that is an integral sound of Havana originated from African slave beginnings of many Cuban residents.

Prior to the 1959 revolution, Havana was home to many wealthy Cuban residents. After fleeing the country, large, abandoned early 20th century American Cars littered the streets. Now they are mutant vehicles married to Russian Lada engines and scattered throughout the city like assemblage art.  The ones that still work drive slow and shake like an earthquake for those brave enough to journey in them.

Fifty years of Socialism have taken their toll on Havana’s fragile social and economic fabric. Living in a broken and outdated economic system, little is wasted and most everything recycled. Its people, a mix of Spanish and African ancestry, have learned to become very resourceful for the lack of money.  They created camel buses and steaks made from grapefruit skin. Everything is used and re-used; survival is second nature and personal sacrifice almost a rite of passage to the 2.1 million residents.

Havana’s buildings are a hodgepodge of Colonial, Baroque, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and 50s modernist architecture. The city’s salty seaside air mixed with the pounding waves is adds a flavor of peeling decay to its buildings, that is impossible to mimic artificially. Under the peeling paint lurks fading images of Che Guevara; still regarded virtually as a saint by locals. This is a place where ration shops are juxtaposed against gleaming colonial palaces, and revolutionary slogans dot the architectural landscape.

– Introduction by Uriel Dana

 

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Taxi on on the Malecon waterfront.
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Taxi on on the Malecon waterfront 15 minutes later.

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 Mechanic shop in Centro Havana. It’s not uncommon to have a Russian engine inside an old American car.

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Wounded dog resting under a banner of five cubans that were given long jail sentences in the USA for spying. ‘Volveran’ means “They will return”.

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Neighourhood residents often get together to play music and dance in the streets.

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