Cuba: Stepping Back In Time

Dancers dancing in Cuba, image for blog post "Cuba: Stepping Back In Time" by Nicki Geigert Photographer and Author

The flight from Miami to Cuba took all of 40 minutes. We went through a People to People tour, which are now allowed to travel from the US to Cuba. After landing, our tour guide took us straight to our hotel, the Ambos Mundos, in Old Havana. Music from a piano drifted out the open door as we entered. The musician was an elderly man with long gnarled fingers and played Sinatra music beautifully. The most interesting part of the hotel was the ancient elevator with the wrought iron gates that the elevator porter closed to lock everyone in on the way up. We all wondered what our rooms would be like; if the elevator would conk out on the way up; if there was air conditioning; what was the food like? Many questions swarmed through our heads before each of us arrived at our separate rooms.

Everyone had images in their mind of what to expect. Conversations about Cuban culture, classic cars, architecture, government, people, food rationing, Cuban cigars, Cuban rum abounded. Cuba is defined by all of that, and more. Most everything is still very ‘50’s styled including guys with T shirts and leather jackets, bicycle taxis, the classic cars, and women’s clothing styles. and leather jackets, bicycle taxis, the classic cars, and women’s clothing styles. Cuban women do love their shoes, so they are definitely stylish.

The old Classic cars were everywhere. At Hot Corner everyone goes to see the most beautiful and best cared for cars in all of Cuba. Most of these cars are now owned by the third generation of family members, so if you see young drivers in well-kept old cars, chances are a grandparent or great uncle had originally bought it 60 or more years before.

Cuba vintage store front image by Nicki Geigert Photographer and Author

Restaurants are becoming the new rage. In the Palador La Guarida, anyone could tell that the building used to be first class. Time has taken its toll, and now parts of the staircase are cracked, and the banister is chipped away in portions, and parts of walls are being held together with brace beams. Go up three flights and into a lovely restored room of friendly people. The food is first class and delicious, with tiny tacos and other options as appetizers, and the best pina colado that I have ever had. You choose your entrée but every meal every day includes rice and beans, which is one of Cuba’s food staples.

Vinales Cuba images of beautiful antique cars proudly on display

The atmosphere in Cuba is casual and colorful. The people are very friendly, and were very excited to see Americanos. We were invited into homes in Havana which had some very unstable flooring, and broken doors, and windows. Several told us to take pictures and tell everyone of the poverty stricken lives they were forced to live. Many of the apartments and homes are also handed down from family member to family member, and since most people have no means of making repairs, things remain un-repaired, and unpainted.

This lobby remnants of past days of glory. Cuba building lobby in disrepair

Americans have not been officially allowed in Cuba for more that 55+ years because of the embargo. Raul Castro, the youngest of the Castro brothers, took over as El Presidente, eight years ago, and has made some positive changes in the last four years, although everyone is still on set food rations depending upon the number of people in each family, and most meat is not included in the rations and must be paid for separately.

Havana average person. While the American policy of isolation is politically popular among a small group here, it has devastating effect on the people of Cuba

We headed southeast out of Havana to Cienfuegos, which is the only total French-built city in all of Cuba. Recently, the Boston Globe voted Cienfuegos as the best of all Cuban cities. It is a beautiful city, with the traditional French styled boulevards in some areas, as well as a town center that includes a nice plaza. The colors are lovely.

Cienfuego Cuba people take pride in what little they have and these beautifully maintained cars are an example.

Cuban cigars, anyone?

Keep going farther southeast to Trinidad and then back to Havana to go southwest to Vinales. These are two great places to see the tobacco farms with the fields being plowed with the oxen, just as had been done hundreds of years before. As we watched the oxen plowing the deep rich soil, the chickens came right along behind, snapping up as many insects and worms as they possible could. We went to the tobacco barns and watched a demonstration of how the dried leaves were rolled by hand, and formed into a nice six-inch cigar and then snipped at each end. The farmers also had a restaurant in Vinales, and invited all of our People to People group to have dinner with them. After the meal, they
had brought in a well-known Cuban singer. They put on the music; he sang, and we danced Salsa.

Cubans enjoy their music, dance, and theater, so when you come, do enjoy the Salsa music, dance, and see the famous Tropicana Cabaret Show. Ten days in Cuba allow a person to see, do, and take in a lot. Come now to see Cuba before it becomes overrun with people and progress. It’s a fascinating step back in time.

Colorful lady dancer in Havana for celebration