June 26, 2018
Cuba is a country I have wanted to visit all my life. My great-grandparents immigrated here from Cuba, and I always loved surprising people with my Cuban ties and heritage despite my pale-skinned-freckled-face. Over the years, I’ve heard bits and pieces of my Cuban heritage and family and was always fascinated by spunky, resilient, and lively personality and culture of my Cuban family. My Uncle Mark often shares old scanned photos titled “Name that Cuban” on Facebook haha! I love getting to see glimpses of grand birthday celebrations, 30 + family members crammed in a room, portraits of my great aunt and wedding celebrations. It seems only fitting that I share a peak into some of my dad’s family before I share images from my time in Havana.
All the men in this family look SO much alike. Left and right is my dad’s dad. Middle is my grandmother with my dad on the right and my Uncle Mark on the left.
Right is my great-grandmother, Grandma Arias, with my older brother as baby!
In June I traveled with my in-laws on a cruise that had a two day stop in Havana, Cuba. I have hands down the best in-laws there ever was and was super excited to get to experience this city with them. I’m thankful that they listened to me talk on and on about random facts and stories from my Cuban family as we wandered through Havana together. When trying to decide what gear to bring, I kept leaning back to capturing Cuba on film. I wanted to grit of 35mm film and colors captured the way I feel and see them, so I knew bringing only film cameras was the way to go. Going through these film scans next to the scanned family photos above shows me how right my choice was.
Cuba was so fascinating. Full of potential and contradictions all at once. The people there are eager and ambitious yet stifled and held back in a lot of ways. Going to Cuba through a cruise simplified things in a lot of ways. While some people say that limits your view on a city, I think with tourism still being so new in Cuba it was a great way to get a first glimpse at the country. It is full of history, color, creativity, and culture. I was warned that big cameras and lots of gear wasn’t the smartest option when wandering the streets in Cuba, which is another reason I limited my gear just my film camera, but I never felt nervous walking around with my camera in plain sight. We felt safe the whole time, but we were also in a more walkable and tourist area of Old Havana. We didn’t opt to explore night life during the short time we were there, but I hear it’s full of fun and incredible music.
Being a tourist with limited time seemed hard to get to see the local view of things, and we seemed to think it’s generally still a local’s city rather than a tourists’ city. Our guides informed us of the government owned shops and non-government owned shops. Government owned shops seemed indifferent to your business since they don’t have ownership of the business they run while non-government owned shops went above and beyond to please their customers. Our lunch at Paladar Los Mercaderes, a non-government shop, was amazing. They had unique flavors, spices and menu items and the service was above and beyond. In our experience, always go for the non-government run establishments.
Cuba is full of so much untapped potential. Not that I want to see tourism change the city, but I can’t wait to see how tourist can better navigate the city and culture of Cuba. I really hope to return in five to ten years and see what I know will be a big transition of this already beautiful city. But for now, enjoy Cuba on film.
Downfall of shooting film… photos taken by strangers are 90% of the time not in focus 🙁
Just for fun here are a few Cozumel and cruise film photos for you too!