One morning in Havana I realized I didn’t have enough “convertibles” for the day (Convertible is one of the two official currencies, mostly used by tourists), and that meant that the first thing I had to do that day was to exchange more money. I still had to find the place to do it, I got my first Cuban money in the airport as I arrived, and as I found it the lines were huge. Tried elsewhere, only to find the same long lines, in the end I was able to get my money from an ATM, although I still had to wait for the power to be turned on (obviously those things don’t work 24H in Cuba). Finally I was able to get inside a shared taxi and meet my fixer, that was already waiting for me at an Havana suburb. As I told all these unexpected morning detours, and explained my huge delay, I got a simple answer along with a big smile: “Well, that’s the kind of thing a Cuban must handle everyday…”.
Cuba is changing, has been slowly and timidly changing for some time, most noticeablely since Raul Castro succeeded to his brother. The propaganda is still there, and everywhere, but great murals with the iconic and catchy messages like “Revolución o Muerte!“ are less common, replaced for others with a much more “hands-on“ approach to the country‘s future, there‘s no need to keep asking to die for your country. The Special Period is long gone, now there’s a timid opening to private businesses and not have to rely on stamps to go to grocery, and even the Internet is slowly being connected. The future is bright, or at least seemed to be at the time these photos were taken, it was just weeks before the open of the US embassy, a time where there was an glimpse of prosperity from the big neighbor. And now that Castro era is fading out it’s uncertain what that future will be.
Despite all that everyday routines are somehow the same, and often requiring some creativity to get them running as smooth as possible. It’s not only those old 50’s cars that miraculously driven up and down the streets, but also the crumbling homes that once were grand knowing to neat the lines for the grocery store to get the best produce. Probably the best way to handle those is with that smile of someone watching the sunset on the Malecón.