A rocking chair creaks while an older woman sits on her porch, fending herself away from the sweltering heat.
On the other side of the street, Two women are getting their hair cut along the pavement. The laughter of a group of men on the street, huddled around dominoes and playing games, and cigars are hanging out of their mouths.
A hairless dog is seen running by, and a young boy, jolly, chases it. A group of kids are playing baseball in an alley using an empty bottle cap and a piece of scrap wood.
Every couple of blocks, stereos blast out infectiously catchy versions of Raggaeton’s recurring beat, the dem bow riddim.
Daily life in Havana Classic automobiles, people coming and going, and clothes hanging from the old buildings. Photo by Christina Lyon
TRAVEL TO CUBA
A teal-colored 1957 Chevy Bel Air belches its smokey exhaust as it whizzes through, fighting its way through narrow alleyways and the incoming cyclists and potholes, pedestrians, and cyclists.
The squealing of liquor bottles echoes in the ambiance of bongos, maracas, horns, and a thumping orchestra is reflected in the street, which comes from the eateries that line Obispo.
The windows and doors of the front remain open, and people are out. I’m in a place where clocks stopped working fifty years ago, as well as the regular rituals that keep this city’s pulse lively.
There’s no doubt about it. I’m living in Havana, Cuba.
The ultimate view of Havana is taken from almost any rooftop within the city. Photo by Christina Lyon
CUBA: A CONTENTIOUS HISTORY
Cuba is a nation that has existed for a long time under the control of a dominant power, ranging from Spanish colonists who settled in the East in the 16th century through the Russian influence and the American occupation during the 20th century.
Do not forget the pillars of revolution, dictatorship, and socialism. This nation has fought a continuous struggle for its independence. Cuba has been freed, only being relegated to the control of a more powerful power.
But, amazingly, the Cuban spirit of life is still alive and flourishing. In a country that has endured this economic and political chaos, The music is blaring with bouncy energy like it didn’t even know it was meant to sound sad.
However, rotten remnants and a long history of conflict smear the cheerful atmosphere surrounding the city.
A vendor sells fruits on the street. Photo by Christina Lyon
“I can still remember the blackouts,” said Suzy, a historian and my tour guide in Old Havana.
While we walked along the streets in ruins, she spoke about her childhood.
Her mother’s family would go for days and sometimes even months without electricity. It wasn’t easy to access basic human necessities. Even a challenge.
“There was no food, people had money but they couldn’t buy food because there wasn’t any in the stores,” she explained.
Change has taken place in at least one manner. Electricity is available; however, there is no money.
The rumbling of communism doesn’t sound out in the same way. However, the balance of economics could be more balanced all over the all of.
The median monthly wage at an official job is between $20 and $30, depending on the person you inquire. Neurosurgeons earn less than cab drivers.
Suzy is a college graduate who earns $16 per month.
Survival is a crucial capability for Cubans. To support their basic needs, they receive some aid from the government along with free education and healthcare.
Ration cards for the month are given to patrons at local bodegas to purchase rice, beans, and half a dozen eggs.
When the ration is finished, the rest of the expenses are incurred out through the pockets of the individual. Deodorants, shampoo, toiletries, and feminine hygiene products are extremely difficult to find.
The historical Capitol is located in Havana. Photo by Christina Lyon
HAVANA: AN UBIQUITOUS PARADOX
But even without many amenities, Cubans take pride in their possessions.
Cleaning is around the daily routine of washing windows, cleaning floors hanging laundry, and other chores. Hard work is a regular commitment done with a smile despite the apparent challenges.
Food is served in abundance and as if every expense was considered. Fashionable women dress in tightly fitted, brightly colored attire, and men are equally well-groomed and stylish.
The Cubans have perfected the art of eloquence without an earful. But regardless of how neat they appear, they cannot hide the marks the capital city has left.
The scavenged remains of debris and gravel are scattered across the streets.
The remains of once flourishing structures are now an ethereal reminder of what they once possessed, as if the bones were removed and what’s left was hanging skin.
The visual illusion illustrates the ongoing tug-of-war between the limits of progress and growth.
Much of the city is amid decrepitude, waiting to be renovated; there’s an enchanting beauty dotted around these streets.
UNESCO approved the organization 1982 and declared Old Havana a World Heritage Site.
The initiative aims “to ensure the proper repair and conservation of the built fabric of Old Havana that is in disrepair due to decay, chronic neglect and the elements.”
However, only some of the city of Havana is suffering.
Havana is a pulsating city with streets packed with vintage cars and locals enjoying a night out. Photo by Christina Lyon
Beautifully restored colonial buildings in shades of pink and white sit proudly over Corinthian columns adorned in European reliefs and imported Italian marble.
They can barely stop the growth of trees and mold that are saturating the borders of the decrepit next-door neighbors.
The juxtaposition resembles mixed media, which only enhances the mystery of this eerie and intriguing location.
For a tourist, the city is fascinating and confusing all at the same time. But what happens to the people who reside there?
A FIGHT FOR CUBAN IDENTITY
Cubans are descendants of generations of farmers. They also cultivate sugar cane as well as coffee and tobacco. This way, Cuba can support its economy by importing local products through organic agriculture.
The people who live some indigenous people reside on the Caribbean island that is surrounded by tropical forests and an array of other natural phenomena.
The constant shifting of cultural influences has made many Cubans think about their real ancestral roots. Spanish? African? American? Russian?
The Spanish guitar strums, American automobiles, and Russian Ladas travel together on the streets. Santeria is one of the African religions that was brought to Cuba during slavery in the 19th century. It is still practiced widely.
Inscribed on murals all over Cuba are the phrases “Socialismo o muerte,” along with an image of Fidel Castro.
Cuba offers a variety of ways of transport. Photo by Christina Lyon