In October of 2015 I took a trip to Cuba. Through Mexico City, I boarded a plane to the infamous island that has recently been making headlines due to the re-establishing of relations with the United States. My intention with this trip was to form my own opinion. Prior to going to the island, I had experienced a deep connection with a part of Cuban culture, Afro-Cuban dance. It's a form of dance that I have practiced for over six years that allows me feel connected to earth and to myself. This is because it's not only a style of dance but it is deep rooted in spirituality and history. Politically and socially, though, the opinions of Cuba in the U.S. have always felt polarizing. Either people admonished the island and its politics or they admired it for its socialist values. Republicans and many exiles alike see Fidel like the devil while concurrently I hear certain liberals praising Cuba for retaking their island from imperial rule and providing free education and healthcare for its citizens. Posters of Che and Fidel are often seen hanging from angsty teenagers' walls glorifying that "stick it to the man" mentality they believe the revolution solely represented.
I was not convinced either way. I needed to make up my own mind, talk to people, observe first hand. Ultimately, I can't formulate an opinion that is polarized. I came back with more questions than I had going in. And like any country there is a multiplicity in the island, people have different opinions. Some, are content and warn you against listening to dramatic opposing opinions. Others, admonish the Fidel regime and are justly frustrated. Yes, people do have free education and healthcare. But simultaneously, there is a shortage in medicine and often times taxi drivers and waiters earning tourist currency make 10 fold what a lawyer or engineer would make after years of schooling. The frustration is legitimate. The shortage of resources is very real. The people are beautiful, complex, and ingenious in the face of scarcity. The country is breathtaking, lush, and sonic. Like any place in the world, Cuba is complicated but it is also amazing. It is a poem that is tragic like it is joyous. I thank the people who opened up to me and were honest in their opinions of the place they call home (proudly or not).
* Photography shot on 35mm film